'I let Ealing Council rent out my flat, now the locks are damaged and I can't get back in'

Ahmed Malik posing for photos outside his Ealing home
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

Ealing resident Ahmed Malik owns a home in a quiet Hanwell suburb. The two-bedroom flat is where he raised his children and serves as his anchor to a community he has known for more than a decade, yet the homeowner says he has been sleeping in a homeless shelter for months.

Mr Malik says he has been unable to access his home for almost four years after entering into an agreement with Ealing Council. During that time the state of the property has disintegrated, mould has taken over much of the flat's walls, the once well-kempt gardens are overrun with nettles, thorns and weeds, door locks are damaged, plastering chipped and the bare rooms resemble a derelict building rather than a family home.

The owner says he is heartbroken by the state of his home has been left in and blames the council for not better helping protect it. During the Covid pandemic, Mr Malik says he entered into an agreement with the council and property letting agency Longstar Estates to rent the flat for a year to a council tenant.

READ MORE: Ealing dad 'fears for his children's safety' as 'dangerous' tree threatens to collapse in garden

A before picture of the living room of the Hanwell home
A before picture of the living room -Credit:Ahmed Malik

The tenancy would start at the end of April 2021 and would finish at the same time a year later. However, more than two years since the deal expired, Mr Malik has not had his property returned to him.

He explained: "This is my main residence and they have made me homeless. I gave them a lease during Covid times but when I wanted it back they wouldn't give it to me." Mr Malik had agreed to be part of a scheme towards the tail end of the pandemic, which would allow the council to place vulnerable people in temporary private leases.

The landlord explained that he and his family had left the property to stay with relatives outside of London during the pandemic and he had decided to help someone vulnerable through the scheme rather than try and find a private renter. He added: "It seemed like a good deal, they take it for a year, house someone homeless and then return it in the same condition."

However, he was in for a shock after the lease expired and he expected it to be returned only to still be waiting. "I handed over the notice to quit and now I have to go to the courts," Mr Malik said.

Mr Malik says that because of the delays he has been left without anywhere to go for over two years. "I was sofa surfing for a while and for months I have been in a homeless shelter in Twickenham," he told MyLondon.

The scheme Mr Malik agreed to is Ealing Council's private sector leasing which is explained on its website. Details on the web page included: "At the end of the tenancy, if you do not wish to extend the lease, you will get back the property with vacant possession."

The current state of the living room which is 'riddled with mould'
The current state of the living room which is 'riddled with mould' -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

It describes the process as "trouble free," and offers landlords "ongoing tenancy management - free of charge". The page also clarifies that any repairs to the property are the responsibility of the landlord.

Mr Malik says that the damage the property has sustained in the more than three-year period it has had a council tenant will cost him tens of thousands. On entering the property for the first time in several years, Mr Malik told MyLondon he was 'heartbroken' by the state of his home. He blames the council for not taking steps to ensure that its tenant respected his home.

'There are snails everywhere, it's really really bad'

However, due to the agreement, the council and tenant have also said that he bears a share of the responsibility for the flat's condition, especially for its ever-worsening mould problem. Speaking to MyLondon the tenant said she also was looking to leave the flat.

She said: "I have wanted to [leave] for so long. The property is riddled with damp, I haven't had a toilet for a year because it's been broken, there are snails everywhere, it's really really bad. Between the both of us, he wants his property back and I want to get out I've been living in a hotel for three months [because] the ceiling collapsed."

The tenant added everything she had brought with her to the flat had to be thrown out after it was destroyed by damp. She added: "I have complained about damp for two-two and a half years. I'm not going to take pride in a property where I have had to through all my furniture in a bin.

"We are living out of bags because everything I initially had got destroyed." The tenant says that three months after moving in the flat was riddled with mould and damp, something she said made it 'uninhabitable'. Despite seemingly all parties wanting the same thing, Mr Malik has had to go through the courts, which Ealing Council explains has been held up by repairs.

'Recent damaged to the building required repairs'

An Ealing Council spokesperson said: “We regret the long delay to Mr Malik’s property being returned to him, which he let through our private sector leasing scheme. The property has been managed by a managing agent and let through them to a council tenant.

“In any cases like this, a legal process must take place to allow for possession to be handed back to the owner, to safeguard the tenant’s rights. Court delays due to the post-pandemic backlog has led to this process taking up to three years.

"After a court hearing was finally scheduled, it became clear that there was recent damage to the building which required repairs, so the current tenant has been moved out to allow the repairs to be completed by the managing agents and landlord, which further delayed the process. Legally, the works need to be completed before court possession action can take place."

The spokesperson added a hearing was due to be held on Friday (July 5) and that it is hoped the delays will be 'resolved as soon as possible". Longstar Estates manages the property on behalf of Ealing Council and it is the council's responsibility to evict the tenant.

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