'It's absolutely heartbreaking': Grieving family devastated as housing group mistakenly throws out Barkingside nan's lifelong possessions
PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 June 2019
A grief-stricken family have told of their heartbreak after the vast majority of their 97-year-old nan's lifelong possessions were dumped by a housing group following a series of administrative mistakes.
On February 12, Agnes Goodman died at the age of 97.
She had been living in a retirement flat operated by Clarion Housing Group in Genas Close, Barkingside.
On April 26, Clarion served the Goodman family with a notice to quit, stating the property needed to be emptied by Sunday, May 26.
That notice, seen by the Recorder, clearly states: "If the tenant or licensee does not leave the dwelling, the landlord or licensor must get an order for possession from the court before the tenant or licensee can lawfully be evicted.
"The landlord or licensor cannot apply for such an order before the notice to quit or notice to determine has run out."
The family made plans to spend the weekend of May 25-26 clearing Agnes' flat and making sure all her belongings were collected.
However, when a member of the family tried to get into the flat the Wednesday before (May 22), he discovered that the locks to the flat had already been changed.
As it was late on Wednesday evening, he returned home and decided to chase up the issue the next day.
On Thursday, May 23 - three days before Agnes' things legally had to be out of the premises - members of Agnes' family alerted Clarion to the problem with the locks, and, according to the family, Clarion immediately apologised and provided a spare set of keys.
They made their way back to her flat and were finally able to let themselves in, only to discover that Agnes' flat had been stripped of the vast majority of her belongings.
Jamie Goodman, Agnes' grandson, told the Recorder the family had been given no notice that the housing association was going to enter Agnes' flat and begin removing her belongings before the date of the notice to quit (May 26).
He said: "It's heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking.
"This was a 97-year-old woman who had lived through the war.
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"The stuff she had gathered over the course of her life, it was so unique and now it's gone.
"Anything we would have liked to have kept, to remind us of her, that's all gone too."
The family have been able to track down a small number of Agnes' possessions, but the vast majority are still missing.
They believe Clarion had been operating what Jamie referred to as "a skull and bones operation", allowing third parties into Agnes' flat to have their pick of whatever they believed to be valuable.
The Goodman family tracked down CCTV footage, which they have now passed to the police, showing a man driving a white van up to the property and removing items that should have been safely locked up in Agnes' flat until May 26.
Clarion was unable to provide the Recorder with specific details regarding the mistakes that were made in Agnes' case.
However, a spokeswoman said: "We are very sorry that Ms Goodman's family has been through this experience and apologise unreservedly for the loss of her belongings.
"An internal investigation is under way and we are working to support the family and have invited them to set out their proposals for a resolution."
The Recorder has also seen correspondence between Agnes' family and Clarion's solicitors, dated June 11, 2019.
In it, Clarion accepts that the company believed the Goodman family's tenancy had ended on May 20, not May 26, "for no other reason than error".
Clarion's lawyers also accept that as much as 70per cent of Agnes' belongings were wrongly removed from the premises, but revealed that "frantic efforts to locate and retrieve the items" had been unsuccessful as they had been "permanently disposed of".
Clarion has been unable to ascertain precisely where that disposal took place.
The company is also refusing to tell the Goodman family the names of any members of staff involved in the removal of Agnes' belongings, but confirmed it is still investigating the role the removal van had "in the regrettable events that took place".
It also requested the Goodman family provide a list of the items that have been lost, so attempts to reimburse them can be made.
The letter states: "In the circumstances our client admits that their actions were unacceptable and that mistakes were made on a number of occasions.
"For this they apologise profusely to the Goodman family."