Desperate Mansfield tenant 'suicidal' in row with council about moving home
A desperate tenant has ‘considered suicide’ in desperation over a row with the council about being moved from his Mansfield home.
Harry Smith, 46, says he needs to be found a more safe and accessible home after a serious accident outside the front door of where he lives now.
He had to be rushed to hospital for emergency treatment to injuries that, according to doctors, left him “lucky not be paralysed”.
But he says Mansfield District Council is refusing to find him a new property to rent, even though he has presented medical evidence in favour of a move.
The dispute started last October when Harry and his 60-year-old wife Vicky, also known as Roxy, moved into a one-bedroom bungalow, owned by the council, at Hickling Court.
The accident happened a few weeks later when he fell trying to get into the bungalow.
"The step to the front door is very steep, and I fell on some wobbly slabs,” said Harry.
"I toppled straight over, landed on my hip and shattered one of my discs.
"I spent a few hours having an emergency operation on my spine at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham while specialists rebuilt me.
"I was in hospital for five days, and surgeons said I was lucky not to be paralysed because of the damage to my sciatica nerve.
"I had suffered a bit of sciatica beforehand, but my disability needs are far greater now.”
Harry and Vicky assume the faulty slabs had been put in by a previous tenant in an attempt to reduce the steepness of the step to the front door.
But the council has now removed the slabs, making the entrance even more awkward to negotiate, and the couple feel they should be transferred to a property that is easier to access and also disabled-friendly.
"We’ve told the council we need a place where you can get a wheelchair or mobility scooter in or out,” Harry continued.
"But they are digging their heels in and refusing, saying new tenants need to stay for at least two years before they can be considered for a move.
"Reports from my GP and my occupational therapist both recommend that we are moved. It is extremely frustrating.
"I cannot walk without sticks and I am trying to get a wheelchair. I get a lot of nerve pains shooting up and down my legs.”
Harry says he has e-mailed Mansfield’s MP Ben Bradley and also the town’s mayor, Andy Abraham, in a bid to get results. But he says he is struggling to even make proper contact with the council.
"My anxiety and stress levels are going through the roof,” he said. “I haven’t got a clue which direction to go in.
"I have some mental-health issues and learning difficulties. It has all made me consider suicide.
"We can’t afford to rent privately. But every time we ask the council for help, they either don’t reply or tell me to ring someone who is never available.”
Harry freely admits he used to be a heroin addict. He is now clean, but wonders if the council “are being biased against me because I am an ex-user”.
He described his stay at Hickling Court as “a nightmare” because he has also been “hounded by addicts and dealers offering me drugs”.
And the nightmare has been made worse by the fact that wife Vicky has two benign brain tumours and should not be exposed to stress. She is also suffering from the eating disorder, bulimia.
The council would not discuss the personal circumstances of the Smiths’ case, but Jill Finnesey, head of housing, issued this statement:
"Our choice-based lettings scheme, Homefinder, has a rule about transfers which means tenants who have held their current tenancy for less than two years and are assessed as having no housing need are not eligible to join the housing register.
"This is to maximise the amount of suitable accommodation available for the high number of people in priority need on the waiting list.
"It also aims to reduce costs incurred by the council when a property becomes empty. This includes loss of rent and the cost of checking and recommissioning gas and electricity, and carrying out any additional repairs.
"The council works closely with Nottinghamshire County Council’s occupational therapy department to ensure that any referrals from them are actioned if adaptations are ever required for tenants. We will also ensure any further work required by the tenant’s occupational therapist is completed.
"When a tenant has been assessed as having no significant change in circumstances and, therefore, no housing need, they do have a right to appeal this decision.”