England: Housing association ordered to pay tenant £31k in racism-related damages

An English housing association misled a black tenant regarding the anti-social behaviour record of her neighbours and failed to support her when she was racially harassed and had to flee her home, a judge has ruled.

A county court judgment issued last week found that London & Quadrant (L&Q), which accommodates 250,000 people across London and the south-east, ignored a code of practice on protecting tenants from racial harassment and was guilty of defensiveness and insensitivity.

Lara Tate (not her real name) fled her London flat in 2015 following nine months of racist abuse, including death threats, from the neighbouring couple, who were convicted of public order offences and racially aggravated harassment.

After five years staying with friends and family, Tate, who has continued to pay rent for the flat, sued L&Q for negligence after discovering that a previous black tenant had left the home due to abuse suffered at the hands of the same neighbours.

She has been awarded £31,000 in damages after a judge found that she had been misled by assurances that there was no record of antisocial behaviour at the property.

“L&Q have ignored the criminal convictions and police reports and the fact that I’ve been ousted from my home,” Tate told the Observer. “They insist I stay in this abusive environment and bid for one of their other properties for up to two years.”

“The couple and their three children would chant, ‘Who let the monkeys out!’, slam the communal door with all the force they could muster, make openly racist and derogatory remarks and bang on my door and accuse me of things,” she said.

When she complained about nuisance noise, the couple hammered on her door and shouted death threats in a 15-minute tirade recorded by Tate.

The judgment concluded that in failing to rehouse Tate, L&Q had “concentrated on the interests” of the neighbours.

The Observer said it has since been contacted by another young, black L&Q tenant who has spent two years in a women’s refuge with her six-year-old son because L&Q failed to rehouse her, despite fears that her abusive ex-partner had tracked her down. The woman, who fled domestic violence in 2014, is now being threatened with eviction for rent arrears.

L&Q told the Observer that it has a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination and domestic abuse.

A spokesperson said: “Our aim is always to ensure that our residents feel safe in their own home, and we will support them throughout the process to achieve this. If there is a safeguarding issue or threat to life we work with partners including local authorities, support agencies and the police to assess any risk and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety, including enabling relocation in severe cases.”

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