East Finchley residents settle two-year legal battle with Housing Association after gas supply cut off

Thursday 22 February 2018

Tim Baldwin of Garden Court Chambers was instructed by Jayesh Kunwardia of Hodge Jones & Allen.

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Settlement has been reached with the Peabody Trust on behalf of 57 residents from East Finchley’s Strawberry Vale estate, who were left without a power supply for up to four months in January 2016.After a two-year legal battle, the Peabody Trust has agreed to pay more than £30,000 to 57 residents who were left for months without gas for cooking and, in some cases, for heating and hot water.

In January 2016, the gas supply to an estimated 267 homes on the estate was cut off because National Grid deemed it unsafe due to a faulty meter. The defective meter was replaced, but the Peabody Trust was unwilling to reconnect the supply, leaving residents without gas for cooking and in some cases, for heating and hot water. All residents on the Strawberry Vale estate were forced to use electric cookers, an expensive alternative which most could not afford.

The Peabody Trust was finally forced to agree to reinstate the gas supply after Hodge Jones & Allen applied to the Central London County Court for an injunction in February 2016. By late May 2016, all residents were reconnected, but many had run up considerable debts due to large electricity bills.

During legal proceedings it was discovered that the Peabody Trust had failed to adhere to gas safety regulations relating to the gas supply since 1998, and following the replacement of the gas network in 2008. The Trust had not obtained a gas safety case in line with regulations that came into force in 1996. When this was reported to the Health & Safety Executive in March 2016, the Trust was issued with an improvement notice, requiring the necessary changes.

Jayesh Kunwardia, partner and head of the social housing team at Hodge Jones & Allen said:

“Residents of the Strawberry Vale estate suffered major upset and upheaval as a result of Peabody’s direct failure to reinstate the gas supply for so long. It was never right that residents should be out of pocket for Peabody’s mistakes and I am grateful to them for entering into negotiations and avoiding a long and costly trial.”

Shona Perkins, treasurer of the Strawberry Vale Residents Association, said: “A landlord responsible for the homes of hundreds of people, including families with young children to elderly people living alone, deprived them of their gas supply, a basic service that they depended on to cook. Some families were also without heating and hot water and at one point the Red Cross came to the estate with hot meals for residents. This was all during the winter, affecting vulnerable people’s health and leaving many with considerable debts. I never thought I would experience such an episode in modern times.

“Our community came together to challenge Peabody’s actions and after a long David and Goliath battle I am pleased that we have finally settled the case. Importantly we also received an apology from Peabody. We now look forward to more positive times ahead and a better relationship with our landlord, Peabody.

“I am extremely grateful to Hodge Jones & Allen who have helped us throughout and to all of my fellow residents who came together and supported one another during this terrible ordeal.

Tim Baldwin is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Housing Team.

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