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Retired grandmother faces eviction over breach of agreement with housing association

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:53 21 August 2019

Valerie Hutchins, 66, and her neighbour at St Clair House were both taken to court by Eastend Homes in August. Picture: Hannah Somerville

Valerie Hutchins, 66, and her neighbour at St Clair House were both taken to court by Eastend Homes in August. Picture: Hannah Somerville

Archant

A retired resident in a block of flats run by Eastend Homes is squaring up to the chance of being made homeless in a matter of weeks.

Ms Hutchins could be evicted in a matter of weeks after a court found she had breached an undertaking with Eastend Homes. Picture: Hannah SomervilleMs Hutchins could be evicted in a matter of weeks after a court found she had breached an undertaking with Eastend Homes. Picture: Hannah Somerville

Valerie Hutchins, 66, lives in St Clair House in Mile End: the same block of flats as 79-year-old Veronica Gordon, whose potential prison sentence we reported on last week.

The 66-year-old, a former Tower Hamlets Council worker, has been Veronica's neighbour since 1977 and pays weekly rent to Eastend Homes.

On Friday, August 2 the housing association was granted a possession order at the County Court of Clerkenwell and Shoreditch.

It related to a reported breach of a behavioural undertaking Ms Gordon signed in 2018 and 2017 after a series of clashes with neighbours.

St Clair House, part of the former council estate off British Street. Picture: Polly HancockSt Clair House, part of the former council estate off British Street. Picture: Polly Hancock

The former council legal secretary, who has anxiety and depression, was also ordered to pay £10,000 in court costs by Friday, which she could not afford.

She said: "It's made me feel suicidal. I feel really, really let down; my friends and neighbours have been shocked.

"Where am I going to put all the furniture I've had for 40 years? What am I supposed to do? We've never had to consider this before and I've never lived anywhere else. I'm scared."

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Ms Hutchins first faced Eastend Homes in court in 2012, when she and Mrs Gordon were subject to injunction proceedings over their front door gates.

From 2012 onwards Ms Hutchins contacted the organisation a number of times with concerns about other people's behaviour on the estate.

Counter-allegations led to her being taken to court by Eastend Homes and police four times over reported harassment, alleged racist remarks and criminal damage, but she was acquitted every time.

After Eastend Homes notified her of its intent to seek possession in December last year, a Tower Hamlets councillor intervened and wrote to them.

In response, the housing association wrote: "East End Homes is seeking possession due to Mrs Hutchin's [sic] harassing nature and her constant bombardment to our office to deal with issues. The email sent to the East End Homes, via yourself is regarded as a form of nuisance."

In recent weeks Ms Hutchins has been in contact with Tower Hamlets Council but was told last week her bidding account for a council home had been suspended.

A letter from the council last week instead advised her to seek legal advice.

She said: "Since I got a state pension, I'm told I'm £3 over the limit for legal aid. I've been running about everywhere trying to get legal advice.

"Every time I try to raise issues I am accused of something. It feels like bullying."

An Eastend Homes spokeswoman said: "At the recent Court hearing on August 2, the court heard detailed evidence of anti-social behaviour perpetrated by Ms Hutchins over an eight-month period. The judge made a finding that Ms Hutchins had breached her tenancy conditions and her undertakings in court."

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