Home Sweet Home?
Subtitled…It’s not our problem so suck it up
About 5 or 6 years ago our street won a national award for being a very very friendly street. We’re an average street in Leeds, on one side through terraces with small yards, the other blind back to backs. We don’t have gardens, the sun favours the front porches of the back to backs and the back alley. Prior to kids we’d hang out talking on our doorsteps, we met likeminded people, we had a few parties, decided we’d like to get to know our neighbours, and threw a street party. We did this every year up until the kids came, then we partied less but we’d had a whale of a time, lots of hatchets were buried, fun was had, and importantly fostered a community spirit that still lingers.
A few years ago our single neighbour moved out of her end four bed through terrace house, sold up to a developer, and within no time at all the construction crew were creating 6 self contained flats, with kitchen and toilet. We contested this with the local authority as they had not sought planning permission and I believe the landlord then reverted the flats back to bedsits (shared kitchen/toilets).
Since then we’ve been party to anti social behaviour from a passing stream of tenants. Not usually directed at us, but with two small children having neighbours smoking pot on the front doorstep, partying through the night loudly, aggressive fights, tearing at and banging doors down has tested my liberal lefty compassionate sensibilities to the extreme.
Last night proved to be too much, we were subjected to hardcore music continuously, which shook the thick brick walls and woke the kids up. With hardly any sleep I decided as I set out for work to have a conversation with these yet unmet tenants who proceeded to challenge me to ‘Who are you?’ Upon my answer of ‘Your very tired neighbour and mother of two small children’ the lads mimed something rude and then pulled down their trousers and pressed their arses against the window.
So that’s the background, I rang the letting agents who infuriated me further by telling me that the HMO (house of multiple occupancy) was a place the local council referred homeless people to via their agency. That the tenancy agreement was based on a six month stay. and that my recourse to action was to call the environmental team at LCC, or if worse the police. Which we have done for other occupants in the past. Each new occupant would require us going through the same process should they demonstrate anti social behaviour. Now I would say I’m pretty understanding of the reasons people become homeless, and that 80% of people have been perfectly fine, quiet neighbours. We don’t even know they are there.
My question to the person at the lettings agency was more about their systems, like why knowing that a property could be challenging to the adjoining neighbours do they not do something premptive? Like schedule a meeting when first letting a HMO like this with the neighbours to explain how things may evolve, in a non alarmist, pragmatic way. Especially as the letting agent who manages this property acknowledges that the kinds of tenants they deal with don’t really tend to have the same respect for people as they should and often cause problems. However their response to this was to see this as an issue with the liscencing authority, Leeds City Council, rather than something procedural their private company could do. She went on to say that she alone manages 300 of these types of properties in Leeds…She also said the support around the softer stuff was being lost as public authorites enact their cuts.
Personally I’d like to understand if there are measures in place to harmonise communities where people who are disenfranchised being placed into. Time spent upfront outlining the best recourse to action people have, including who to call, how to deal with situations rather than escalate them and what right you have to contest a HMO license if necessary would be very useful. I don’t wish to suggest we only have the ‘right types’ of people living in our neighbourhoods, I also guess this situation will be repeated across the country and may only get harder as the cuts bite.
I’m pretty sure I’m not being a NIMBY, I’d like to get back to having a decent night’s sleep, nod hello to my neighbours and still feel like I love living where I do.
Beyond tea and sympathy do feel free to let me know if there are places where this situation has been handled in a really good way, what systems and procedures have been put in place to be proactive and to ameliorate potentially challenging situations.
PS Please don’t piss me off further by telling me we don’t live in an ideal world and therefore we’re stuck with the way we do things currently. Or if you do don’t expect to share a coffee with me for a bit!