Mother of two daughters facing homelessness believes she is victim of ‘revenge eviction’
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 September 2016
A distraught Swiss Cottage mother who has previously had to stay on a church floor with her baby daughter sleeping in a suitcase is facing homelessness again and fears her children could be taken into care.
Camden Council has refused to accept Liane Pibworth, 32, onto its housing list as she is currently housed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council in Farjeon House, Swiss Cottage, due to a lack of available accommodation in the west London borough.
But Ms Pibworth says that Camden social services have become involved with her daughters, Honey, 13, and Vavie, three, because she was forced to live in a series of hostels and bed and breakfasts when she moved back to London in 2014.
She has been given notice of eviction by letting agent Omega Homes now her lease is nearly up - but believes she is the victim of a so-called “revenge eviction” because she has complained about living conditions in the flat.
Ms Pibworth said: “Camden won’t help us because they say we are Hammersmith and Fulham’s problem, basically.
“But my elder daughter has been offered a place at a school in Camden, and I am dreading having to go back to living in hostels in west London just as we were getting some stability.
“We lived in 12 different temporary accommodations in the space of about 15 months when we moved here, and there were a lot of dangerous, difficult situations we were in because of that – including an eight-week period of street homelessness, when we slept on friends’ sofas and on the church floor.”
Ms Pibworth said that a social worker suggested she was an unfit parent because she was “hopping all over the place with the girls” - even though she was moving hostels to avoid dangerous situations.
She said: “Of course, moving around like that has taken an emotional toll on my girls.
“You get drug addicts and violence in hostels – they are no place for children.
“But this is ultimately all caused by the lack of housing, and is nothing to do with my parenting.”
Ms Pibworth grew up in London and moved back from Wales following a relationship breakdown so she could be close to family and friends.
She said: “To put it bluntly, yes, I think it’s a revenge eviction. I think we’re being evicted because I repeatedly complained about the conditions in the flat. We had mice, multiple floods, no heating for months, including an entire winter.”
Ms Pibworth, a psychology graduate, is not currently working and has had her housing benefit of over £350 a week paid by Hammersmith and Fulham to her landlord – who she said lives in India.
She said: “I’d like to return to study or working part-time, but the lack of stability means it’s impossible. It’s incredibly stressful for me and the girls, and it consumes all my energy having to constantly move around.
“I’ve had all the nasty comments from people about being on benefits and all the rest of it – but where does that money go?
“Straight into the pocket of a private landlord, who is allowed to charge nearly £18,000 a year for slum living conditions.”
And she added: “Of course, it’s terrifying to think that I might have the children taken away because we are made homeless again.
“But I know this kind of thing is happening all the time.
“It’s time for some humanity and common sense to be brought back into the housing market in London.”
The two-bed former council flat the Pibworths live in was last sold in 1998 for £93,500, according to the Land Registry.
It is currently leased by Omega Lettings on behalf of the landlord for over £1400 a month.
Camden Council, which last year removed 23,000 people from its housing list, said it is unable to assist the Pibworth family.
It said in a statement: “Camden Council prioritises people with a connection to Camden when allocating council housing. To qualify for the council’s housing register, most applicants need to have lived in the borough for five of the last seven years. Ms Pibworth moved to the borough in August 2015.”
Camden Council confirmed it currently has 426 people placed in temporary accommodation.
237 of these people are housed in Camden, predominately in hostels, but 189 are housed in private sector accommodation outside the borough.
The latest statistics from Camden reveal that over the past three years, it has spent an average of more than £100 million a year on housing benefit which has gone directly into the pockets of private landlords.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which has housed the Pibworths in Camden, said it is “actively looking for alternative accommodation for Ms Pibworth and her family and will offer accommodation before they are expected to leave” but did not elaborate on whether this accommodation would be a hostel or somewhere more stable for the family.
Omega Lettings did not respond to our request for comment.