Single dad rehoused by council after 15 month wait

Petrus Burin first contacted the council about his eviction order in March 2022 but was only offered accommodation days before bailiffs were due to remove him and his daughter from their rented home

By Marco Marcelline

The London Renters Union organised a protest in support of Petrus Burin on 14th August, Credit: LRU

A single dad facing eviction was permanently rehoused by the council just days before he was due to be turfed out by bailiffs.

Petrus Burin, a mental health worker, was set to be evicted from his private rented accommodation on 28th August after being served a section 21 ‘no–fault’ eviction notice in March 2022. 

Petrus had first contacted the council when he learned of the eviction early last year, but was only offered housing on 21st August 2023. He subsequently signed a twelve-month private tenancy agreement with a housing association, with the opportunity for renewal.

On August 14th, around 40 people attended a protest organised by the London Renters Union (LRU) to support Petrus and his 15-year-old daughter who is studying for her GCSEs.

LRU members at the demonstration, which took place outside council housing lead Ahsan Khan’s surgery, demanded Petrus be rehoused in the borough before 22nd August.

In the week following the protest Petrus was contacted by housing officers to arrange accommodation for him and his daughter.

Petrus was then quickly offered viewings of properties and on 21st August he accepted a permanent offer of accommodation in Leytonstone which he has subsequently moved into. The new rented home is closer to his daughter’s school and her friendship networks.

While grateful for the new accommodation Petrus said the past year and a half of housing limbo had been heavy for his emotional state.

Petrus said: “This has been 15 months of heartache and immense struggle. The council’s approach has been impersonal and inhumane. People should not have to demand to be seen and heard; they should just be seen and heard.”

Petrus added that the council’s last-minute move to provide him with housing was triggered by the protest arranged by the LRU. “Without the protest [the council] wouldn’t have acted. If they can [offer housing] for me, it proves they can do it for anyone.”

Due to the stress caused by the threat of eviction and homelessness, Petrus has had to take leave from his job. 

Petrus told the Echo how seven weeks after his sister died of cancer, his landlord told him his rent would be increased by 50%. After refusing to pay the rent increase, Petrus had arranged a six month tenancy agreement with the landlord while looking for a new home.

However, due to being on universal credit he said it was difficult to find suitable accommodation for him and his daughter. At the end of the agreement Petrus was served a no-fault eviction order.

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

Petrus said there was “no structure” to the interactions a council housing officer had with him when he first notified the council about the eviction order last year. Inconsistent communication was then followed by “complete radio silence” before the council closed his case because there was “no imminent threat of eviction.”

Through the entire process, Petrus said he was not offered any face-to-face meetings with any housing officers. 

Liam Miller, spokesperson for the LRU, told the Echo: “Following our action Waltham Forest Council facilitated the rehousing of our member Petrus and his daughter in the borough.

“That this was sorted out before he and his daughter were physically evicted from their home by bailiffs. As if losing a home were not stressful enough, to be unnecessarily put through bailiff eviction intensifies the distress and mental strain. Avoiding such an eviction and securing accommodation is a big win for Petrus.”

Liam added: “Many local families in situations like Petrus’ who face homelessness are placed in temporary accommodation outside the borough or even outside  London, so we are relieved that Petrus and his daughter will not be forced to move away from their social circles, work and school.

“It should not be necessary for London Renters Union to take direct action to get this issue resolved, but through this we have demonstrated the power that renters have when acting together in solidarity. We encourage all renters to join us and build our power further.

“Petrus’ case has cast light on serious issues with how Waltham Forest Council approaches homelessness applications. Applicants often wait months with little or no communication from council officers and there is a total lack of availability of face-to-face meetings, which Waltham Forest still blames on the Covid pandemic despite many other London boroughs now offering them.”

Cabinet member for housing and regeneration Ahsan Khan said: “After we were first approached by the resident in March 2022, we advised him that the eviction notice was not valid and offered to help get clarity from the landlord. Mr. Burin engaged with our services again earlier this year and a homeless application was triggered. Mr. Burin accepted our offer of accommodation on 21 August.

“We understand how difficult the threat of homelessness is for those who experience it. We always work hard using all the powers available to us to help those who approach us. We want to keep local people close to their friends, families, and support networks.”

Cllr Khan added: “The behaviour of the London Renters’ Union, who disrupted a ward surgery, deprived other residents of their chance to raise issues important to them with their elected representatives and did not influence Mr Burin’s case in any way. All homelessness decisions are taken by trained officers based on housing law and local policy.”

Update: This article has been updated to state that the council offered Petrus a permanent offer of accommodation

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