'I'm being put out on the street': Man with mental health issues set for eviction by council
- Credit: Simon Matthews
An Ilford man with severe mental health issues is set to be evicted by Redbridge Council after it determined he was not in ‘priority need’.
Simon Matthews – who receives enhanced personal independence payment and has depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and emotionally unstable personality disorder –will be removed from his Ley Street accommodation on September 12, having lost a county court review.
He claims that the council has not taken proper consideration of his mental health issues and has been having panic attacks about what will happen to him if he is evicted.
He said: “I’m essentially being put out on the street, because I can’t find anywhere privately, because nobody’s willing to take anyone on benefits or housing benefit.
“This potentially could make me lose all my benefits. If I’ve not got an address for me to live at then all my benefits could potentially be cancelled.”
Simon first approached the housing service for assistance in January 2019, after being served an eviction notice from his privately rented accommodation.
In July of that year, the council accepted a duty to provide interim accommodation for him, after he was detained under the Mental Health Act.
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After being moved through a succession of rooms in Redbridge and Havering, he was moved in at Ley Street in November 2020, where he says he has settled down and begun to improve his mental health.
“They moved me into a property in Ilford, it’s my own flat, I’ve done it up nice, I don’t owe any money to the council anymore, I pay all my own bills, and I’m trying to get my life back on track,” he said.
However, he claimed that the council had already informed him in early 2020 that he was not in priority need and that it therefore had no statutory obligation to house him.
In March 2020, Simon requested a review, but, despite the disruption of the pandemic, was given only a minor extension to the deadline of the 23rd of that month to provide further evidence.
A psychiatric assessment of Simon was delayed until June 2020, by which time the council had already sent a letter in May, indicating a proposed decision that he did not have priority need.
That psychiatric assessment would ultimately diagnose him with mixed anxiety and depressive disorder and emotionally unstable personality disorder traits.
In February 2021, a review decision was given, which determined that Simon was not owed a duty under the Housing Act 1996.
On August 6, the council’s decision was upheld in county court and on August 10 he was served notice to quit the premises.
According to section 189 of the Housing Act 1996, the local authority only has a duty to house an applicant if they are homeless, eligible, in priority need and not intentionally homeless.
While Simon has been considered homeless and eligible, the council is not satisfied that he is in priority need and has also determined that he became homeless ‘intentionally’, through non-payment of rent.
While a person who is vulnerable as a result of mental illness is considered as being in priority need under the 1996 Act, there is a threshold for what constitutes vulnerability.
To determine that an applicant is vulnerable, the local authority must decide that if the applicant became homeless, they would be significantly more vulnerable than an ‘ordinary person’ would be if they became homeless.
Simon said he was told this month that an appeal to the Court of Appeal does not have sufficient prospect of success to justify legal aid.
He claimed that he has been unable to find private accommodation because people do not want to take renters on housing or disability benefit and because, after two years in temporary accommodation, he lacks references.
A spokesperson for Redbridge Council said: “We have an extremely limited amount of temporary accommodation in the borough which is allocated based on whether an individual is classed as homeless or has a priority need as set out in strict legislation which we are legally bound to follow.
"Unfortunately, Mr Matthews’s situation did not meet the statutory requirements, so we are unable to continue to house him. This decision was upheld following internal and court reviews.
“We sympathise with Mr Matthews and have offered to continue to support him to resolve his housing situation.
"This will include us negotiating with potential landlords on his behalf, and consideration of financial assistance if he finds a property in the private sector that is affordable and suitable.”