‘I was evicted, now I live in a caravan’ - Yarmouth mum-of-three says landlords won’t take tenants on benefits
- Credit: Archant
It is the coldest week in February for five years and Norfolk's otherwise popular campsites should be empty.
But at Clippesby Hall campsite, Kelly Gregory has just bought a caravan and moved in with her young children.
If she was not there she says she would be homeless.
Her case highlights the lack of affordable housing for people in her situation.
The 33-year old was evicted from her home in Great Yarmouth with her three children on February 6 and went to the borough council to ask for help.
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She was offered emergency accommodation - a room in a hostel in the town but there was not enough space for her three children. Her youngest is just one and was born with brain damage. Her eldest son, nine, has mental health issues and goes to a school for children with behavioural problems.
She left her children with family members until her temporary accommodation in the hostel ran out on February 19. After that she was hoping for the council's help to find a home.
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But they refused her application for housing support because of complaints her previous letting agent made about her.
The council has classed her as being homeless and in priority need but said she was 'intentionally homeless'.
That means she could have stayed in her flat if she had abided by her tenancy agreement, the council said.
But Ms Gregory said the landlord in Nelson Road was kicking her out regardless.
She complained about damp in the flat, while the letting agent complained to her about the flat being untidy.
She knew she was being evicted but with a bad reference from her landlord, little money, on Universal Credit and with three children she had no luck finding somewhere else to live.
'There are plenty of places for rent but 9 out 10 will not accept you on Universal Credit,' she said.
Her caravan, which she bought on eBay for £1600, has two beds for her two eldest children and one for her. There are two electric heaters which keep the place warm, but the cooker doesn't work yet.
'It is not ideal but I had to find a roof over my head,' she said.
It has meant her daughter, who is six, had to move schools. She said she is planning to stay in the caravan throughout the summer.
A Great Yarmouth Borough Council spokesman said: 'If the applicant is found to be intentionally homeless then the council's legal duty to accommodate them ends after a reasonable period.
'The council considers all the evidence provided by the applicant and their former landlord – both written and verbal – and makes a judgement on the balance of probabilities.'
Our research has found many of those living in the worst homes are on benefits, meaning taxpayers are footing the bill for their rent.
One reason for this is most landlords are reluctant to take people on benefits, fearing they will not be paid.
Paul Cunningham, from the Eastern Landlords Association, said a benefit change called Universal Credit had made things worst for tenants and landlords as housing benefit now went directly to tenants rather than to the landlord.
'Most of our members will not accept Universal Credit tenants but before that they were happy to accept tenants on housing benefit,' he said.
'I've done more repossession in last 18 months for rent arrears than last 18 years.'
In a search of one rental website we found 434 rooms for rent in Norwich, but only 16 were prepared to consider someone on benefits.
In Great Yarmouth we found just six rooms prepared to accept those on benefits.