Property guardians living on a South London estate that is about to be demolished have been handed “heartless” 28-day eviction notices just before Christmas.
Eviction notices were issued to hundreds of property guardians by Global Guardians at Riley House, Bruce House and Plummer Road on the Clapham Park Estate on December 8. They have until January 7 to find alternative accommodation.
Guardians living on the Clapham Park Estate are pleading for an extension until the end of January because of Christmas and the uncertainty of Covid-19.
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Some are also isolating and may be on holiday, while the extra long Christmas bank holiday means estate agents will likely be shut and will prolong their frantic search to find a new place to live before January 7.
Maria, a guardian on Plummer Road who wanted to keep her last name anonymous, has slammed Global Guardians and MTVH for issuing eviction notices at this time of year.
She told MyLondon: “We know that 28 days is the notice stated in the contract, but giving notice at this time of the year across the Christmas holiday is really not appropriate and is putting people in a hard place.
“From next week, most places are going to be shut, so I don’t have much chance to contact estate agents or other guardian companies. I’ve tried to get in touch for viewings and to arrange moving but it’s been really hard. In a way I’m lucky because I’ve not planned to be abroad during this time.
“But at the moment I think the most reasonable thing to do is ask for an extension to give us a bit more time, at least until the end of January so after all the bank holidays – things will be back to normal. We don’t know about potential lockdowns yet, but we will have a bit of a better chance to find a place.”
Global Guardians find working professionals over the age of 18 to live in empty properties for Metropolitan Thames Valley housing association (MTVH) so they are protected from trespassing, illegal squatting, antisocial behaviour and other issues that could affect the wider community.
Property guardians pay a license fee rather than rent to cover their occupation of a property, and are still required to pay for council tax and bills.
Under their Global Guardians contract, all guardians have a 28-day notice period to get out of the property once an eviction has been served.
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MTVH say only 94 guardianship licenses have been affected by the evictions, however Maria estimates it to be around 150 properties and potentially 300 guardians.
Though Maria has lived on the estate since 2016, she says she doesn’t meet Global Guardian’s new vetting criteria for potential and existing guardians, because she doesn’t earn a minimal income of £18,000 a year and works multiple jobs.
She explained: “I would not meet their criteria because I have a combination of different jobs and self-employment.
“They won’t offer me another property, even though I’ve been with them for six years. I’ve always paid my cleaning fine and have always kept the property in a good state.”
MTVH is delivering a major regeneration of Clapham Park Estate, and will build over 2,500 new affordable homes in place of the current ones guardians are occupying.
The next phase of the development will see 520 new homes built and will begin early in the New Year, however MTVH need full access to the guardian’s properties in order to begin demolition work and construction.
MP for Streatham, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, has slammed Global Guardians and MTVH for issuing “heartless” eviction notices right before Christmas.
She told MyLondon: “I wrote to them making it clear that it’s unacceptable to threaten people with this kind of action over the Christmas period.
“They are contractually obligated to provide people with 28 days’ notice, which they have technically done, but their decision doesn’t take account of how difficult it is to find new housing over Christmas, let alone affordable housing, or the fact that we are in a worsening phase of a global pandemic.
“A lot of those days are, in reality, holiday days and there aren’t many rentals coming onto the market at this time of year. There has been absolutely no consideration for Clapham Park Estate residents’ Christmas plans or the fact that many of them have been forced into self-isolation because of the high Covid-19 case rate.
“Our borough has one of the highest case rates in the country at present and it’s irresponsible and wrong of them to force people out house hunting.”
Bell went on to say that she received an “unsatisfactory response” from MTVH, and claims they haven’t considered the difficult timing of the evictions.
She continued: “I have received an unsatisfactory response from MTVH. There’s no acknowledgement of the central issue with these evictions, which is the timing.
“They’re telling me advance notice was given to residents via phone, but many residents claim they did not receive such a phone call. They’re telling me they have made efforts to offer guardians alternative properties but I’ve spoken to many residents who claim this is not the case and are now facing homelessness.
“MTVH’s justification for this is they need to get the redevelopment moving as quickly as possible but this is an unacceptable way to treat people who they’ve been happy to rent these homes out to to keep them occupied (for up to eight years in some cases).
“Instead of bulldozing ahead with these plans, they should be listening to residents’ concerns and offering a blanket extension on eviction dates.”
MTVH insist that all guardians were personally contacted by telephone on December 7 and 8, and that Global Guardians have given priority status for those due to be evicted by offering new properties from their portfolio.
After MyLondon contacted MTVH for comment, the housing association reviewed the programme and revealed on Friday (December 17) that guardians from all but Bruce House have been given an extension until the first week of February to find alternative accommodation.
Bruce House guardians will have until January 14 rather than January 7.
A spokesperson for MTVH said: “Early in the New Year we will begin the next stage of our major regeneration of the Clapham Park Estate, which will see a further 520 new homes built, including over 260 homes for the most affordable social rents.
“To allow works to begin on these much needed new homes, we have given the required notice to those people providing guardianship security for properties due to be demolished.
“We understand the difficult situation that those affected find themselves in. With our partners we are supporting those affected to find alternative accommodation over and above what is legally required.”
Global Guardians has been contacted by MyLondon for comment.
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