William Wade, 24, who has autism and learning difficulties, has been living independently in a flat in the town rented from B3Living since June 2018.
In February his relationship with his partner broke down and she left the property. That ended his joint tenancy and the change in circumstances also meant William’s state support switched from housing benefit from East Herts Council to Universal Credit, which is paid four weeks in arrears. His £595.05 a month rent goes directly from the Government to the landlord.
This plunged William’s rent account into the red, but with the help of his parents, Catherine and Robin, and the maximum repayment allowed from his Universal Credit, he has been working his way back into the black.
A change in his tenancy number and mistakes by B3 allocating payments to his old rather than his new account exacerbated his difficulties, but William and his parents were confident they were working with his landlord to resolve all the issues.
However, in November William was plunged into despair and his parents were horrified when he received a letter alleging he owed £1,105.60 and that B3 was beginning legal proceedings to take possession of his flat.
He was told he must leave by January 28 and was warned: “Failure to do so will result in us obtaining a possession order from the county court for the court bailiff to evict you on our behalf.”
Mr and Mrs Wade, who live in Stevenage, contacted Stortford mayor Cllr Norma Symonds and the Indie in desperation when their pleas to B3 seemingly fell on deaf ears.
William’s mum said: “He has done nothing wrong. He is in arrears because of Universal Credit.”
Dad Robin claimed B3 staff told him William should rely on the food bank in order to up his repayments.
Cllr Symonds, who is East Herts Council’s homelessness champion, said: “This is appalling. I have known Will for quite some time and I can see him going downhill because of this.
“I am horrified a housing association could treat someone with a disability as badly as this.”
After the Indie pressed B3 for a review, William received an apology and an assurance that legal action would not be taken.
An email to him and his mother said: “I want to apologise for the tone of the letter that was sent taking into account the fact that you were already in correspondence with us. It is automated but we have amended the wording in response to your complaint.”
A spokesman added: “Our first priority is always to support our residents in managing their finances and help them to stay in their homes by working with them.
“When residents do fall behind with their rent, we do everything we can to work with them and other agencies so they get the support they need.
“Legal proceedings are always a last resort, once all other avenues have been exhausted. We never have any desire to evict anyone, especially in the run-up to Christmas, and always want to work with our residents to support them.”
By Sinead Corrsinead
Date: 24th of December 2019