Dartmouth Park cancer sufferer, 72, ordered to leave home of 24 years because he is ‘delaying sale’

Rory Graham in his home

Rory Graham in his home - Credit: Archant

A 72-year-old cancer victim has accused his housing association landlords of “cruel and disgraceful” behaviour after being given an eviction notice – despite pleading to stay while he receives treatment.

Croftdown Road

Croftdown Road - Credit: Archant

Rory Graham, who lives in a Peter Bedford Housing Association (PBHA) property in Dartmouth Park, said he has been treated “like an object to be moved around” rather than a human while battling to remain in his home of 24 years.

The retired biochemist and author, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer last week, has been told he must leave his flat by April 25 – his 73rd birthday – because his presence is “delaying the sale and having a significant negative financial impact” on PBHA, according to the notice of possession.

PBHA’s mission is to support “vulnerable and excluded people” by providing “shelter and security”.

Stress caused by fear of losing his home has made Mr Graham suicidal and driven him to a mental breakdown needing a crisis team response.

Different versions of Rory Graham's book

Different versions of Rory Graham's book - Credit: Archant

He said: “They’ve been bullying and pestering me for a long time because they want to sell my home – I assumed they would lay off when I was collapsing with cancer, but they didn’t. It’s not a particularly honourable thing to do.”

Mr Graham, who also has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of an event in childhood, as well as dyslexia, said it came “out of the blue” when he was told to leave.

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After his Primrose Hill flat burned down in 1993 – “a catastrophe that led to my life falling apart” – Mr Graham was briefly homeless, sleeping in an Essex field, until offered accommodation in Croftdown Road by PBHA.

He assumed it was a home for life – but in 2012 was told the property would be sold, and was asked to move on. It was then largely ignored, he added, but claims he was repeatedly pushed to leave.

An excerpt from the eviction notice sent to Rory

An excerpt from the eviction notice sent to Rory - Credit: Archant

Then, in the summer of 2016, he was given a notice of possession.

“I couldn’t deal with it – the PTSD, cancer and everything else,” he said.

“So I went to see them a few weeks ago and ended up having a two-and-a-half hour chat with the board of directors, who eventually agreed to delay the eviction by a month.”

He said he has been offered two other flats by PBHA, but one was up two flights of stairs he couldn’t regularly climb in his poor health and the other had a kicked-in front door and “didn’t feel safe”.

Mr Graham, who wrote Assertion Training: How To Be Who You Really Are in 1991 with Shân Rees, added: “Apparently, when people get old they like to stay in the same place.

“This is my home – which they have completely disregarded – and this is where my life is. They are behaving so badly with this cruel and disgraceful act.”

Moving means a doubling of rent, he added, as well as living in Islington or Hackney – places he doesn’t know.

But PBHA’s chief executive officer, Clare Norton, said the organisation has taken the decision to sell the property “to help us to develop our core service of providing support needs housing to vulnerable and excluded people”. She added: “It is deeply unfortunate that the tenant’s wishes conflict with our wider mission. We intend to provide more social housing to replace these social homes. We are at the stage of offering varied properties to meet his needs.”

Ms Norton also said PBHA takes “great care” in supporting vulnerable tenants and was working “very hard” to resolve the issue amicably.

She said Mr Graham had agreed to move to another property – but Mr Graham told the Ham&High he had accepted the offer only because he is “very much alone” in the fight to stay in Camden and had no other choice.

Councillor Sian Berry, who represents Mr Graham’s Highgate ward, said she was happy to back up PBHA tenants. “If they are trying to get him out while he’s having cancer treatment, it’s awful,” she said.

“They’ve got to be humane to their tenants – they need treating with the utmost care.”

She added: “I hope they will listen and let him stay as long as he has to.”

Mr Graham, meanwhile, is consoling himself by concentrating on his unpublished book, Mountains of Madagascar. Since retirement, he has visited the island several times – inspired, he said, by the early nature films of David Attenborough.

He is also sponsoring a disabled boy in the country by paying for his medical bills. “I advise publishers to get in fast, because soon I’ll be self-publishing,” he said.

He explained how a sleeping bag on his bed helped him to write the book. “When I get inside it, I’m transported back to Madagascar – if only for a moment,” he said.