Belsize tenant in Big Brother hell
Ben McPartland A BELSIZE tenant claims he is being forced to live under house arrest because suspicious housing officers do not believe he spends enough time at home. Nicholas Swingler has been told he faces Big Brother style random visits over the next m
A BELSIZE tenant claims he is being forced to live under house arrest because suspicious housing officers do not believe he spends enough time at home.
Nicholas Swingler has been told he faces Big Brother style random visits over the next month by Camden Council's mobile patrols, to check whether he actually lives in his flat.
If housing officers decide the 64-year-old poet is not using the flat as his primary residence, he could be forced out.
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A furious Mr Swingler, of Woodfield in Parkhill Road, has lodged an official complaint with the Town Hall which he claims has effectively enforced a curfew on him. He said: "Why don't they go out and get a forensic scientist to come in after a few weeks to really investigate whether I live here or not? It's a bit extreme, but what they are doing to me is pretty extreme. It feels like the burden of proof is all on me.
"It feels like house arrest because the thought that they might evict me is forcing me to stay here. I am well aware of the huge waiting list for council flats but unfortunately this place is not empty."
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Mr Swingler, who suffers from a form of leukaemia, says he often falls ill and as a result has spent a lot of time at his girlfriend's flat in West Hampstead. He also claims to spend time away looking for a house outside London, where he intends to move in the future.
"One of the reasons I am so shocked is because they have known for a long time I wanted to leave here and that I have spent a lot of time away looking for various places to live," he said.
Mr Swingler came to the attention of the council after he was reported by an unknown source. When housing officers paid him a visit, they noted his flat appeared uninhabited because it was sparsely furnished.
Mr Swingler said: "They said 'it doesn't look as if you live here' but I have always lived sparsely. This is my home and this is how I live. It's none of Camden's business how much furniture I have. I have got everything I need here."
In a letter earlier this year from Jessie Brady, a housing investigation officer, he was warned, despite his explanations, he would face an investigation.
The letter said: "I am still not convinced you are using the property as your main and principle home. I intend to ask for random tenancy checks to be carried out as discussed with you previously.
"I will ask our patrol officers to start unannounced visits in February 2009. Depending on the outcome of these I will then decide what further action to take, if any."
A Camden Council spokeswoman said: "There is a chronic shortage of social housing in Camden and we are committed to ensuring these homes are allocated to those in genuine need.
"We carry out checks and investigations to ensure these homes are being used properly and, if they are not, we take action to ensure they go to those who genuinely need them.
"If anyone has any information regarding fraudulent applications for housing, sub-letting of council properties, or fraudulent right to buy applications they can contact the housing investigation team, anonymously if they wish, on 020-7974 5848.