On February 15 in the Metro an article was published about the death of a homeless person who was well known in the in the underpass near to Westminster.
Jeremy Corbyn made a statement that “the powerful can’t carry on walking by on the other side while people don’t have a home to call their own”.
In the Southend Echo reported on the front page on the same day a bonfire spark went onto the roof of a bungalow causing a blaze and a couple have now been left homeless after ash from the bonfire torched their roof.
Stories like these highlight the desperate nature of being or becoming homeless, made particularly awful in winter on the streets of the Uk with the reasons behind the unfortunate homeless persons life on the streets, being something we can only guess at.
I live in Central Southend and I am fortunate enough to have both a job and a home that I am paying off with a mortgage.
Next door to me is a house filled with less fortunate people all of whom are renting privately from a landlord who thus far (4 years) seems to have no interest at all in his tenants.
Apart from collecting exorbitant rents (I calculate exorbitant not on the actual amount per month – but on the earnings per month of the inhabitants, so some of them have very low incomes and the rent they pay per month is almost equivalent to their income) - and receiving less than average conditions in which to live. At one point sewerage was running down the outside walls of their property as the landlord had not attended to blockages in the toilet.
Under these conditions, historically, revolutions have happened – and is it little wonder that you really don’t mind a revolution when you really don’t have much to lose?
In Southend we are fortunate enough to have an organisation that speaks up for tenants and landlords as well as having links to estate agents and council representatives.
They will assist people to make contact with landlords and speak on behalf of tenants around housing issues, as well as assisting tenants to contact an appropriate organisation or person to resolve housing situations. They are called Southeast Alliance of Landlords Agents and Residents – SEAL.
SEAL – is a partnership specifically tailored for Southend-on-Sea and includes representatives of landlords, managing agents, residents and the Council. Their stated “aim” is to improve the management and standards of privately rented properties and reduce anti-social behaviour.
But this organisation works both ways in the sense that responsible social behaviour is expected by both landlords and tenants - with the hope that this will achieve outcomes that result in satisfaction for both parties.
Of course landlords are not “obligated” to join SEAL but there are a lot of benefits for landlords in that any potential problems can be dealt with in a fair way by a representative from SEAL – thus hopefully resulting in continuing accommodation for tenants in the face of any difficulties.
Heygate Residents Association
Without the help of SEAL and Tina Shepherd I genuinely do not think that the problems we have had at a property in York Road would have been resolved.
SEAL works with all groups in the Southend Community to bring about results – and this works for all concerned – the community, the Landlords and the tenants.
My experience of a very difficult, extremely hard to deal with situation, has been resolved after months of problems at the back of my own property. The team at SEAL came in, they really got stuck in dealing head on with the issues, contacting freeholders, letting agencies, landlords, leaseholders and tenants, talking with them about the issues that I and The Heygate Residents Group, were trying to sort out. This made all the difference and has led to a resolution that has forwarded the needs of all the groups involved.
SEAL are making more than a difference in Southend. I truly think they are at the forefront of creating a new and regenerated environment for tenants, landlords and the community which can only improve all long standing problems and relationships and lead to a much happier, settled and cohesive community.
I can’t think how I would have managed this situation without all their persistent efforts.
Thankyou Tina and the team! Resident Heygate - 2017
I contacted SEAL after having issues with the boundary fence between the tenanted next door property and myself. After having no luck for at least 11 months dealing with the letting agents/ landlords I asked Seal for advice. Tina came to our rescue on behalf of SEAL and stepped in and mediated between the agent and myself. 6/8 weeks later, we now have a brand new fence offering us the privacy I was after.
Without SEAL stepping in I feel the only way to have got the issue resolved would have been via a legal process which would have continued for many months.
I would recommend this service to anyone who are requiring advice regarding issues with agents/landlords. They provided an excellent service which has saved me a load of stress and grey hairs!!
Jo - Resident. 2017
'When I faced a problem with ASB from a neighbour, I was frightened. I tried to contact agencies and people to support me but I felt ignored by everyone. After the local council asked for SEAL's intervention, the life of my family improved significantly. SEAL and especially Ms. Tina Shepherd, protected our citizen and human rights and we were able to enjoy our property again. Right when I felt that all hope was lost, SEAL made me feel valued and respected and informed me on what steps to take in detail. SEAL indeed builds a better Southend for all of us by protecting the residents' rights and empowering them to raise their concerns. We are grateful for SEAL's ongoing support. Thank you. '
Petra Daskou 2017
“I have private rented for 3 years now and at first when I moved in my neighbours could not bend over backwards enough!!
Incidents started to happen with the daughter, the dad and dad's partner outside the house which had a massive impact on my family. My son is disabled and both my children are young so are extremely vulnerable and became frightened very quickly.
I also have an adult with learning disabilities living with me through a shared cared lives scheme. He also has his own needs and is very vulnerable and needs support from me in a variation of ways.
The incidents next door became a daily battle of threats, abuse, food throwing, aggressiveness, violence and this continued throughout the day and night on a regular basis for the last two and half years for no apparent reason towards us.
To the point that I had to deal with the local police, the community pco's team and Seals who I was in contact with, Tina Shepherd regularly. I would like to say a big thankyou to Tina for her understanding of my situation and my needs. I liaised with Tina regularly to update on police incidents, who then followed the correct procedure of contacting the landlord, the estate agents and the ASBO team to provide and support me as a private tenant. This has been paramount to the situation moving in a positive way with eventually the landlord giving notice and an eviction notice being served due to the ASBO team being involved, which was of daily incidents.
I would like to thank Tina Shepherd and her team involved for all the support she gave us and now knowing that they have been moved out of the house.”
Ms K George 2017
Having experienced numerous problems with some of our neighbours in the past, we eventually felt at the end of our tether. It was upon the advice of our local MP that we turned to SEAL for further help and advice. We didn't know who SEAL were before this but they provided a link between us and the landlord which enabled us to report incidents anonymously and receive feedback from the landlord in terms of any action being taken which ultimately did lead to a happier neighbourhood. They kept us informed and always kept the lines of communication open, which was a godsend to us and our neighbours who had all been affected by this problem.
Claire Ostermeyer 6.2017
”I am extremely pleased with the approach taken by SEAL and groups that are keen to improve their local environment, and will endeavour to support the aims of helping with the properties that persistently dump rubbish, as well as ensuring that reports are dealt with in a timely manner.”
Environmental Health Southend Borough Council 2015
“My duties are linked to waste, environment and highway inspections.
During my highway inspections part of my duties are to inspect the condition of the roads and footways and also vegetation growth from private properties that may be obstructing the footway or carriageway and the condition of garden walls of private dwellings that may be in a poor condition and might possibly be a danger to the public.
From the point of view of my waste and environmental duties this can include complaints about waste in front or back gardens, overgrown gardens and people putting waste out early or building works going on at addresses where building materials may be left on the highway. In all these cases contact is needed with the occupants of the properties. In many cases this is not easily achieved as the properties may be multi let with nobody willing to take responsibility for these issues or occupants not willing to open the door to speak. This is when it is so important to be able to contact the managing agents or the l/lords.
Since SEAL has come into being, it has made my job so much easier, with much less time being lost having to constantly re visit locations to resolve issues. In most cases also, the landlord or agent, once contacted by the Seal team deals with the problem, thus saving even more time.
I have discussed the Seal team with my colleagues and we are all in agreement of how invaluable the service they provide is.”
Tony Morgan - Environmental Care Officer 2014
SMAART and SEAL Partnership Working
Through their day to day work SMAART strived to work closer with private sector landlords and were often frustrated at a lack of response from them albeit not all. When Selective Licensing was being considered for Southend, Multi Agency Anti- social behavior Response Team (SMAART) worked with Private Sector Housing to provide information on anti- social behavior statistics. Furthermore, when SEAL was proposed as a replacement to Selective Licensing, SMAART saw an opportunity to improve relationships with private sector landlords and worked with the initial SEAL board in providing information in their anti- social behavior provisions within their documentation.
From the outset the relationship with SEAL has proved to be of benefit, in the reduction and more importantly prevention of anti- social behavior. Having a dedicated officer within the SEAL operation (Tina Shepherd) is an important liaison for SMAART, our partner agencies and landlords and has helped us to engage at an earlier stage to address anti- social behavior as well as preventing it from escalating.
The relationship between SMAART and SEAL has enabled:-
Perception of anti- social behavior is often higher than the reality but is often increased due to the visual deterioration of an area. SEAL have undertaken to survey problem streets with the aim of improving the street scene alongside engaging and empowering the residents and in some severe cases a police patrol has been implemented. This has seen improvements in roads between High Street and Queensway area that have long term impact.
Anita Mcginley 2015