A couple who live in a one-bedroom flat with their two children have won a landmark legal ruling that could see families freed from cramped living conditions.
Favio Flores, 46, and his partner Elba Velasquez, from Peckham, took Southwark council to judicial review at the High Court after officials claimed the family deliberately moved into their home to push themselves to the top of the housing waiting list.
But the family, who moved from Spain in 2014, rented the £1,000-a-month property as it was all they could afford. They then did not seek to get on the social housing waiting list for four years as they were unaware that they would be eligible for town hall housing help.
The family has struggled during the pandemic – they had to throw out the sofa bed the parents slept on in the living room to buy a table so the children could do their schoolwork. This has meant that Favio and Elba have to sleep on the floor.
Lawyers say councils across the UK will no longer be able to unfairly claim families have moved into small properties as a “deliberate act” to get up the housing list following the precedent-setting judgment.
Manjit Mandair, a specialist housing litigation lawyer from Osbornes Law, which represents the family, said: “Most people like Favio and his family move into properties that they can afford out of necessity rather than have an involved agenda for getting up the housing ladder. It is deeply unfair that Mr Flores and his family were accused of this and we hope this judgment will help others in a similar situation.”
Favio said: “We are so happy that we have won this case and that it could make a difference for other people in our position. When we were accused of deliberately making ourselves overcrowded we felt really bad.
“When we came to England we didn’t know anything about our rights as we didn’t even speak the language and we simply rented somewhere we could afford. We did not want to live in a crowded space. The council’s treatment of us was really unfair but we carried on fighting and in the end we won.
“As a family we have been suffering living is such a small space and my son has had health problems and allergies from living in the flat. I now hope that we are found a bigger place to live and that our relationships with each other improve.”
Izzy Köksal, spokesperson for Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, who helped the family in their legal action, said: “Overcrowding is a huge problem in London and across the UK and is part of the wider housing crisis.
“Councils have been blaming families and penalising them because they are living in overcrowded conditions and this is devastating for them. Many don’t understand why they are being made to feel responsible for living in the only housing they can afford. We hope this judgment will stop the cruel blaming of people who are victims of the housing crisis.”
Southwark council has been contacted for a comment.
Pictured top: Favio Flores and Elba Velasquez
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