A terminally ill man is among ten tenants at two properties in Broadstairs to have been served with eviction notices following the sale of the buildings to a new landlord.
Paul Mathews, 70, and his 19-year-old cat Alfie, have until March 15 to leave their Chandos Square home of 15 years so new owners Tomes Homes can renovate the buildings.
Former psychiatric nurse Paul, who suffers with conditions including emphysema, said the notice last month came “out of the blue.”
He said: “I was not expecting it. I have lived here for 15 years and am terminally ill. I was expecting to spend my last days here then all of a sudden I got the eviction notice.
“My neighbour also got a letter and he has been here 17 years. It was just a standard letter which the new landlord filled in and saying if needed to seek advice as quickly as possible.”
In all 10 tenants at numbers 2 and 3 Chandos Square have been given notice to quit. Three further flats have already been vacated.
Paul added: “The young couple above me phoned Thanet council and they have been told not to vacate the flat as it would be making themselves homeless.”
Paul, who does not have any living relatives to help him, says he has found somewhere to go although it will be stressful for him and his elderly cat.
He added: “I spoke to the old landlord and he said he didn’t know this was planned. Originally we were told we were getting new kitchens and bathrooms and then I was told there were no plans for works on my flat and a couple of weeks later I got the eviction letter, there were just different messages from different people.
“It has left a nasty taste in my mouth and I just want to get out now but I was not expecting to ever have to live somewhere else.”
Green Party district councillor Mike Garner says he hopes Tomes Homes may reconsider their position so that resident who want to, can stay in their homes.
He said: “I was shocked to hear that 10 residents in Chandos Square, some who have lived there for a number of years, have been issued with eviction notices to leave their homes by their new landlords, Tomes Homes.
“As we emerge from the pandemic and look to get our communities and businesses back on track, these eviction notices couldn’t come at a worse time. We know that the rental market is becoming more difficult as we see a significant increase in the holiday let business and some of these residents are going to struggle to find new accommodation so quickly.
“I hope that Tomes Homes will reconsider their position and enable those residents who want to stay in their homes to do so.”
‘Transforming neglected accommodation’
Tomes Homes says it is “a family run, values driven business, putting our tenants’ happiness and satisfaction at the heart of everything we do.”
Founder and CEO Jackie Wigram-Tomes said: “We are working hard to enact positive change in the areas that we operate and take considerable pride in transforming “neglected” accommodation into quality homes in which our tenants take delight in living.
“We are proud to have developed a very strong working relationship with Thanet District Council which recognises the positive change we bring to the area and where we also help provide accommodation to those in need on the housing waiting list in homes that are a far higher standard than anything else available to them.
“I think it would be fair to say individuals seldom like change. Transforming neglected accommodation into desirable places to live clearly involves considerable investment, in which change is inevitably involved.
“Having conversations with our tenants about our plans, the impact upon them, and the most pain free way forward for them is an important part of what we do. We always try to make contact to have these conversations, so we can work together on a plan and provide specific support relevant to their needs.
“However, not all of our tenants wish to engage in these dialogues with us, and despite our best efforts, we regretfully find that sometimes we cannot open a line of communication to be able to have these discussions.
‘Extra consideration and support’
“Regarding the terminally ill tenant at Chandos Square – in all of our conversations with the tenants who have been open to engaging with us, we are yet to have had this clearly very important piece of information shared with us. Of course, this situation requires extra consideration and support, and we are only too happy to give this, but unfortunately it is not possible for us to do so if the information has not been shared with us.
“Many tenants do indeed decide to return to the same accommodation once full refurbishments are complete and we are delighted when they do and I think it would also be helpful to state we have yet to come across any tenant wishing to revert to their previously neglected accommodation. In itself, a significant vote of confidence for what we do.”
Rental property shortage
Jackie said in general tenants are often offered little in the way of security of tenure and government intervention is need to change this, adding: “ We would love to grant longer tenancy agreements, but unfortunately at this time these are usually in breach of our mortgage terms and conditions.
“Areas such as Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate have become extremely desirable places in which to live. There is a complete shortage of rental accommodation available, and desirable places to rent across this area are almost non-existent.
“Many long-standing tenants are now benefitting from rent levels which are far removed from the current market and it will perhaps not be surprising to understand it is not financially possible for us to do all we do, and provide the good quality of service and accommodation, with market rents still standing from a decade ago or more sometimes.”
Tomes Homes says it is not involved in the holiday let market and current tenants will have first refusal on the refurbished flats and help to find temporary accommodation.
However, Jackie admitted “it’s not always financially possible for the tenant to meet the new market rents which we need to make this all possible.”
She also said the company may reflect on how Section 21 eviction notices are given, saying: “We tend to serve a section 21 as a formality as part of the process, whilst also opening the door to discussions at the same time. We are always looking to improve so we will use this as an opportunity to reflect again on how we do things and I think we could probably leave the notice formality until after we’ve had an initial discussion with the tenants, assuming they do respond to our attempts to make contact.”