LRU members at Eros House continue to face serious safety issues

Nov 1, 2019 | News

Eros House is a privately-owned temporary accommodation block in Catford that Lewisham Council places people into as part of a contract it holds with District Homes. Eros House is home to some of the most vulnerable adults and children in Lewisham. By organising protests and open letters, and meetings with the council through the London Renters Union, Eros House residents have forced Lewisham Council and the private landlord owner of the tower to ensure important repairs are made.

However, ongoing safety issues remain, including:

  • Broken or faulty lifts, with residents frequently having to use the stairs in what is a very tall building, or getting stuck in the lifts. There have been several accidents caused by people having to use the stairs.
  • The security guards provided by management are ineffective and ‘just let anyone in’.
  • Damp and mould throughout the block, which has seriously impacted the health of a number of children living there.
  • Electric heaters that are inefficient and expensive to run, and that have in many cases have been installed onto thin partition walls, meaning they fall off easily.
  • Windows that do not close properly, leaving cracks and gaps for cold air to get in and many flats far too cold to be considered fit for human habitation.
  • Broken windows in communal areas that were not made safe, including a floor height window on one of the top floorsi which was covered with cardboard by contractors and left for several days.
  • The cleaning of communal areas stopped earlier in the year.
  • When members in the block tried to organise a meeting to discuss these issues by putting up posters, security guards removed the posters, saying they had been instructed to do so by their office.

Many of these issues have been reported before, both by individual members and by the London Renters Union, through public actions and correspondence. While some substantial work has been undertaken following these actions – including the installation of new windows in a number of flats and other urgent repair work – serious problems remain.

Moreover, members in Eros House are nervous about taking public action or putting their individual names to a statement or letter because they fear reprisals from the Council, in particular being housed out of London. London Renters Union members have been implicitly warned that making complaints or taking action may lead to council officers making decisions against them.

While we recognise that austerity and a lack of funding creates difficulties for the Council, we do not feel that this justifies the failure of the Council to use its powers to improve conditions at Eros House.

Following a recent residents’ meeting, the Lewisham branch of the London Renters Union, which has 28 members living in Eros House, calls on Mayor Damien Egan and Lewisham Council to:

  1. Guarantee there will be no reprisals for members and non-members housed by Lewisham who speak out and demand suitable and safe conditions in Eros House, and that they commit to organising regular meetings with residents and the London Renters Union to ensure that the voices of residents can be heard.
  2. Ensure neither Landside, nor any other organisation or individual with which the Council has a contract, are party to union-busting behaviour, be that removing posters or similar.
  3. Provide the residents of Eros House with a housing officer or other point of contact at Lewisham, to help Lewisham monitor whether or not any necessary work is being carried out by Landside and District Homes.
  4. Ensure that previous commitments to deal with recurring and chronic issues with individual flats, especially where the condition of those flats might be a concern for Lewisham’s Environmental Health team:
    • Damp and mould
    • Badly installed and inefficient electric heaters
    • Windows that don’t close properly
    • Ensure that the following issues in communal areas are dealt with:
    • Lifts
    • Security
    • Cleaning
    • Botched repair jobs on windows

Since it launched city-wide, the LRU has improved the housing conditions of more than 100 of its members and successfully pushed for policy changes. Given that Lewisham Council has repeatedly failed to use its existing powers to adequately improve conditions, and given that London Renters Union members have been made to feel scared to speak out by the actions of the Council, we are confused and troubled by the Council’s stated intention to establish and run its own Private Renters Union. We urge the Council to work closely with us to improve conditions for both private sector and social housing renters across our borough.

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