The sale of social homes impacts neighbours in the house/block
At first sight it might seem improbable that any resident should ‘suffer’ from the sale by NHG of an adjacent home. But there is a price to be paid for the selling off of social homes – it is a price borne entirely by its residents.
Many purchasers of a previously social rent home completely demolish the homes’ interiors and reconfigure them. ‘Upgrading’ building works subjects adjacent residents to incredible levels of vibration, noise, dirt and dust caused by walls and fixtures and fittings being ripped out.
Cracks in ceilings or water stains from this work are hard to get remedied. NHG says take it up with the builders or new owner. Builders make wild promises of a complete clean up and even of improvements – but only where they want access to residents gardens or yards.
When the building works are completed residents celebrations can find that the now privately owned home is being used as an AirBnb. Here’s one Genesis resident’s story:
“A ground floor flat in Brent was sold at auction with a secure tenant still living in the first floor flat… there was a whole year of extensive building & construction work as the ground floor was gutted, causing vibration, stress, cement & concrete dust, with builders rubble dumped waist high at the front of the house plus general noise and inconvenience.
When the flat was refurbished the new owner (who charmingly describes their business in their Companies House entry as “Housing Association Real Estate” rents it out on Airbnb. “Stunning flat in West London, £70 per guest per night.” This swiftly rose to £140. The listing proudly enumerated amenities such as “no smoke alarms / no carbon monoxide detector.” Obviously the flat owner doesn’t bother with all that pesky nonsense recommended on Airbnb as good hosting etiquette, being considerate of neighbours, respecting shared space etc.
This means an endless succession of strangers entering the property through the shared front door and hallway; the front door repeatedly being left unlocked except on a flimsy Yale and therefore completely insecure; frequent door slamming; repeated all night parties with excessive pounding music; the door bell going off like a fire alarm every half an hour, being rung by people trying to join the party; the front door being left wide open in the middle of the night; and for the final insult, the theft of mail to carry out identity fraud using the name and address details of the social tenant upstairs to order over £600 worth of goods to pay for sound equipment for the illegal parties.
Airbnb have a reporting tool for neighbours on their website. It doesn’t work, therefore, impressively, they have virtually zero complaints. Phone calls are automated unless the complainant has a verified Airbnb account, so that screens out any possibility of complaining to a human being.
Genesis have a great tool on their website too; report anti-social behaviour on their website and they will respond within five working days. They don’t. They have a lengthy informative message on their system which invariably says they are experiencing a high volume of calls so it’s better to communicate online. You can press a number to hear all about the merger though or another number to hear all about the Genesis app. One Genesis switchboard operator told me “It’s the owner’s flat, they can do what they like”. Eventually Genesis did contact the owner but only after I had suffered weeks of stress and an enormous waste of time and energy.
I’m fairly confident that by the time I eventually get through to my ‘Neighbourhood Manager’ I will know far more than anyone in Genesis about the illegality of sub-letting on Airbnb for more than 90 days a year without a licence from the local authority, and about the illegality of renting out an entire flat (as opposed to a room) on Airbnb under the conditions of a BuyTo Let mortgage. Genesis not bothered about breaking my lease shown by refusing to protect my ‘right to peaceful enjoyment’ of my home.”
Fire alarms disconnected
Private owners of what were NHG homes can disconnect or remove the communal fire alarm system in their flats. This obviously exposes every remaining resident to an increased risk. Did NHG not foresee this?
The buyers of NHG homes should also have cause for concern. We know of cases where the new owners claim that NHG did not make full disclosure to them.
These owners don’t complain because that would show that they are aware of the undisclosed matters and so would have to inform their subsequent buyers. A case of see all, hear all, but say nowt!