Housing association L&Q subjected me and my terminally ill mother to a 15-month ordeal

<span>Photograph: Marcin Rogozinski/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Marcin Rogozinski/Alamy

My sick mother and I have been moved around different temporary accommodation for more than 15 months because my landlord, L&Q, failed to repair our uninhabitable flat. I still don’t have a date for when I can return to our home of 25 years.

Our ordeal began in August 2020, when we reported large cracks in the ceiling. A contractor visited and advised that repairs should take place in the near future. Nothing was done. Eleven months later, the ceiling collapsed while we were at home and water poured in. The fire brigade declared the flat uninhabitable and we were moved in to a Travelodge. Six times over the next six months we were moved, during which time my mother, who suffered from serious physical and psychiatric illnesses, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. The moves caused her such mental distress she spent her last four months of life in anxious confinement.

For the first three weeks we were housed in two hotels with no cooking facilities. Two of the three flats we were subsequently moved to were up several flights of stairs, which my mother was unable to climb. We were once given 24 hours to vacate our accommodation and moved to a different London borough, which disrupted the council care package my mother was receiving. She died the following month and, a week before her funeral, I was served an eviction notice by L&Q and moved, for a seventh time, back in to a hotel where I’ve been for the last eight months.

I’ve been barred access from my hotel room three times because my booking had not been extended by L&Q. One night, I had to pay £1,400 so I would have a bed to sleep in. Remedial works to the flat didn’t begin until 15 months after we had moved out, and are still incomplete. And L&Q changed the locks so I was unable to collect belongings, which are now covered in mould. I’m isolated without my neighbours or belongings, and have been prescribed antidepressants to get me through.
PB, London

It’s hard to make sense of what you have endured. You are a young woman who had been your mother’s full-time carer long before this ordeal began. Not only were you forced out of the home you grew up in, you had to cope with your mother’s diagnosis and decline, and your subsequent bereavement, while being shunted at short notice between hotels and serviced apartments. You have also had to pay nearly £400 for meals because of the weeks spent with no cooking facilities. It seems the repairs only began in earnest when you paid a locksmith to get you in to your old flat, and found the ceilings had not been reinstated.

L&Q was founded in the 1960s as a charitable association to tackle homelessness, and has expanded into a multibillion-pound private sector housebuilder. After my expose of maintenance failings in 2018, it admitted its commercial ambitions had distracted it from the needs of its tenants. It announced a five-year plan to improve its service, but your case suggests it is still focused on the bigger picture at the expense of individuals.

When I contacted it about your case, it initially claimed the ceiling cracks had been assessed as “safe”. It later admitted that its team had failed to action a repair after the report, and that the state of the drainpipes and guttering had contributed to the water ingress. It cites a shortage of contractors and “programme delays” for the 16-month wait for repairs, and says that you were warned that, since you had requested to be rehoused in the same area, you might have to be moved occasionally. You insist that this warning only applied to two of the seven properties, and that L&Q was aware of your mother’s mental issues and restricted mobility.

The letter you received after your mother’s death was not, it explained, an eviction order but notice of the end of the tenancy, which was in your mother’s name, so that it could then offer a new tenancy in your name. Gerri Scott, executive group director of customer services at L&Q, says: “We are so sorry for the distress and inconvenience caused to PB and her late mother. They should not have spent so long moving between different temporary apartments, especially at such a difficult time.”

Matters moved apace after my intervention. Your flat has been fully refurbished and you have been compensated for the disruption and distress, and for your expenses.

Last year, the Housing Ombudsman found L&Q guilty of “severe maladministration” after a tenant with physical and mental vulnerabilities was moved to four hotels in three months, and accommodated on upper floors despite mobility issues. Will your case change anything? Yet again, L&Q tells me it has learned its lesson. It has streamlined its repair processes and “significantly increased” its pool of contractors, and will offer a long-term option of temporary accommodation if tenants face more than four weeks out of their home.

It also promises to be more stringent in assessing the suitability of temporary accommodation for vulnerable tenants, and to carry out welfare checks. What is so extraordinary is that these pledges were not standard policy before.

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