Mum accused of making herself 'intentionally homeless' by refusing to move back into flat that caught FIRE as kids slept

A MUM has been accused of making herself "intentionally homeless" after she refused to move back to a flat that caught fire as her kids slept.

Linda Sekyi, 39, and her two kids, eight and 11, were asleep when the fast food takeaway shop they lived on top of in Tottenham, London, caught fire in March this year.


The terrified mum had to scramble out of the property and throw her two kids out of the window, where they jumped from the floor above and landed on the shop roof.

Linda broke her ankle in the process while her flat, which she was privately renting at the time, was destroyed.

The mum-of-two said: "I opened my bedroom door and the whole house was full of smoke, I had to quickly go to the kids' room and wake them up.

"I got them through to my bedroom window on the first floor and onto the shop roof.

"Immediately we jump out of the window onto the shop roof – the fire brigade brought us there to guide us to go downstairs with a ladder."

The traumatised family were rescued by ten fire engines and around 70 firefighters and were rushed to hospital in an ambulance.

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Linda's landlord then paid for her and her kids to stay in a hotel while their flat was renovated.

But when her landlord said she had to move back into her flat once it had been renovated – because the tenancy was still in her name – she refused.

"I said to my landlord I'm not going back there because of the trauma and the anxiety, my kids are traumatised and they don't want to go back and experience what they saw that night," she said.

Linda's youngest child has been receiving counselling in her school to help cope with the trauma.

And since moving out of the hotel in August, Linda has been struggling to find alternative accommodation through both private renting and council housing.

She says after approaching "hundreds" of real estate agencies, she was told she must find a guarantor who earns at least £50,000 to £60,000 a year because she works part-time as a cleaner.

Unfortunately, Linda doesn't know anyone earning a salary like this so she decided to seek help from the council.

After sending off a homelessness application in August, the mum-of-two received a decision result from Haringey Council in October that stated she was "not homeless or threatened with homelessness", according to the Housing Act 1996.

'INTENTIONALLY HOMELESS'

The council wrote: "This means that the Council does not have a duty to complete an Assessment and Personalised Housing Plan with you or have any duty to take reasonable steps to help you to prevent or relieve homelessness."

On the children's trauma, the letter, seen by MyLondon, said: "Of course the incident was traumatic and has had a negative impact on your children’s mental health.

"Whilst I completely understand and empathise with their feelings of not wanting to return to the property I believe the restaurant and landlord have made the changes necessary to secure the accommodation as well as possible."

The letter concluded that Linda chooses not to move back into her old flat and "consequently lose it and become homeless, you are likely to have become homeless intentionally."

It also stated that if Linda reapplied to the local authority for housing assistance, the council "may deem that it has no duty towards you apart from taking steps to help you to secure accommodation under the relief duty and interim accommodation for a reasonable period if you have a priority need."

… you are likely to have become homeless intentionally.

Since August, Linda says her family have been moving "from house to house" and are staying in-between relatives' and friends' houses.

She says her 11-year-old son is forced to sleep on a living room chair at her aunt's house because there simply is no room for the three of them.

On other occasions, the children have to sleep on the floor.

Both the headteacher and the family liaison officer at Linda's daughter's school have expressed their concern to the council on the emotional impact of her children's current state of mental wellbeing from both the fire and the unsettling home environment.

She said: "I have children that are 11 and eight, do they want me to sleep on the street and sleep outside so then they [Haringey Council] can be of help? Is it because they have a place of sleep, which is why they don't want to help?

"It's not that I just don't want to go, I have a reason. But based on that, they [Haringey Council] told me I'm not homeless."

Linda has received professional legal help and awaits a further response from the council after she challenged their decision.

A spokesperson for Haringey Council said: "Homelessness is an issue we take extremely seriously, and having a range of measures in place to address this remains a priority for the council.

"We have thousands of people on the waiting list, and the demand for housing is not just high in Haringey, but across London. This includes thousands of households waiting for secure housing, with many of those in temporary accommodation.

"There are policies in place for all councils to follow to ensure those in greatest need are prioritised for the limited social rented housing available, however it cannot cover every eventuality.

"We have a Housing Decisions Panel in place to review exceptional cases with discretionary powers to award additional priority where appropriate."

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