It’s not just private tenants who are subject to the arbitrary whims and lack of care from their landlords – some of us who live in housing association homes face the same problems.
We @ForFMTenants are a campaign group working to get better services (or even just the services we pay for) from Family Mosaic – one of London’s largest housing associations with thousands of houses and flats in Hackney. Here’s one issue we’re dealing with – one that many private tenants will have experienced – no heating! But for us it’s our landlord’s policy.
Family Mosaic has said that it will introduce a summer central heating shutdown policy in all buildings with communal boilers. It had previously been shutting down central heating during the summer as an ‘informal practice’ – driving some residents to distraction – but it now intends to formalise this across all its properties.
Controlling your own central heating is a basic right, alongside turning on gas, electricity and water. Whilst heating may be less essential for most during the summer months, the decision to turn the heating on is for a resident alone.
In an email to @ForFMTenants Family Mosaic confirmed that the policy would be implemented without referral to residents:
“The procedural part of developing the policy within Family Mosaic will be instigated shortly and this will take several months to complete, given that it will apply across our entire property portfolio. Once we are satisfied that the creation of the new policy has adequately anticipated our expectations in terms of added costs, the capacity of the individual heating plants and the contractual arrangements we have in place, then we will be approaching the residents in terms of whether they wish their heating systems to remain on – or off – during the summer period.”
Family Mosaic has said that residents who wish to control their heating in the summer may have to pay extra. But they won’t involve residents until the point at which they have to decide whether to pay extra – and not in the decision of whether it is right to have your heating turned on or off by someone else. The creation and implementation of the policy is apparently taking place behind closed doors.
This lack of transparency and clarity is unfair and cruel. It leaves residents unable to fully understand the basis on which they occupy their homes.
Family Mosaic has said that they will give buildings the choice to opt out of the policy. But how can a building of individual residents take that decision as a group? Residents don’t live in collectives. They shouldn’t be forced into collective decisions about provision of basic services.
The basic problem for residents is that Family Mosaic has no shareholders, voters or customers to hold it to account and ensure that its decisions are rational and fair. As a result it has absolute power to implement a heating switch off without reference to its residents.
We have a common cause with Digs. Tenants and leaseholders need greater rights – to protect them from poor landlords in the private sector, but also to protect them from the incompetence and arrogance of large-scale landlords who are equally unaccountable to their residents.
Our campaign seeks to hold Family Mosaic to account by giving residents a voice. We’ll continue to share residents’ views, stories and experiences on twitter and on our blog, so that Family Mosaic has no choice but to listen.
You can follow our campaign and share your views on twitter @forfmtenants and at forfmtenants.wordpress.com