Much of the work undertaken by Somali Community Parenting Association relates to the homes of community members.
Leicester is a university city, and private landlords have learned that they can get more money for their properties if they let to students. In so many instances they do not maintain the properties well in the hope that the current tenant will leave to find another home. They landlord can refurbish the house/flat and achieve a higher rent when it is relet to students.
These badly treated tenants find it difficult to find new homes.
They have suffered poor treatment for many years.
But the council does not recognise their need because they are not homeless.
The Environment Health Officer can visit the house, outline the work that needs to be done and order the landlord to make improvements, but there is no guarantee of protection for the tenant. They can live in the house whilst the work is being done and have protection from eviction for only 6 months.
The landlord issues a Section 21 notice giving notice for the tenant to leave the property. The tenant is supposed to be considered as homeless from 56 days before the end of the notice period.
There is no help for people applying for social housing from the council and it is difficult for the applicant to speak the council about this. The council ask for documents that they have already been given. You point out that the applicant is technically homeless, and the Council expects you to provide all the information previously given again rather than checking the documents electronically filed with the housing application.
Success, the council accept the application, but it is after the end of the notice period. The applicant can see the homes available on the council website and bid for the homes. But still there is a long waiting period – no guarantee that the problem will be resolved quickly. When asked to estimate of the time it will take – 5 months!!
After waiting 5 months the landlord is tired of waiting and takes legal action.
In the interim the tenant has spent two weeks in hospital for something which may have a psychological cause because of the stress they have been under.
It should feel like a success when the tenant is finally offered a home, but it is not in an area where the tenant wants to live. The tenant seeks comfort of living with others from their home country. But if this tenant refuses the home offered the council has met their legal responsibilities and will not offer any other homes.
Most Somali’s don’t know the system and are not fluent in English. It depends on the nationally on their passports and the reason for their migration into the country, but many cannot not get free access to English for some years. Because of poor language skills the employment opportunities are limited and at the rate of minimum wage. It will be many generations before the situation for migrant communities improve.