Since Scotland began lockdown on 23 March we have been repeatedly told we must do everything we can to ‘stop the spread’, so why have leading housing associations left our most vulnerable tenants without basic cleaning services and where does the buck stop?
We have heard from members housed in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh who all tell us the same thing: tenants have been left without their regular cleaning services for several weeks and questions sent to housing providers are eliciting woolly responses or, in some cases, falling on deaf ears.
“They say they are focussing on cleaning buzzer panels and bannisters. Not closes . I pay a service charge for close cleaning. I’ ve not seen anyone cleaning buzzer panels or close door or close... Situation with my landlord regarding grass cutting was to delete my questions from their facebook page and to totally not bother contacting me to address the questions - same with close cleaning.”
Under pressure from organised tenants other Housing Associations have reacted quite differently. After initial inaction Cube Housing Association announced that they would be cleaning buttons and other virus vectors every two hours.
The Glasgow Housing Association too, has promised similar action.
But there are concerns that these promises are being poorly enacted, and their piecemeal implementation is too little too late. Action is needed now to support disabled, elderly and otherwise compromised Scottish tenants.
Elderpark Housing have not had cleaning team out since 10 March, I am now out of pocket to purchase broom mop bucket and disinfectant to do my close.... made worse by 2 neighbour's still having family visit their homes.”
In the absence of landlord action, the onus has been falling on those living in high density housing to do the cleaning themselves, incurring personal costs on top of services charges that have not been waived despite the withdrawal of services. This is placing tenants without adequate Personal Protective Equipment at risk.
“Got text questionnaire this morning and it asked if I am happy now cleaning commenced not seen any sign this has taken place as only cleaning done here is by tenants”
Reports are similar across the country: Partick HA (Glasgow), Williamsburgh HA (Paisley), Govan HA (Glasgow), Aberdeen City Council (Aberdeen), Dunedin Canmore HA (Edinburgh and the Lothians), Port of Leith HA (Edinburgh) closes with City Council landlords (Edinburgh), Linthouse HA (Govan, Glasgow), New Gorbals HA (Glasgow), Lowther Homes (based in Glasgow), Your Place (HQ in Glasgow but Scotland wide), Thistle HA (Glasgow), Sanctuary HA (UK wide), have all been named as landlords or housing associations who have withdrawn services and have yet to respond to calls for their reinstatement.
“Partick H A hasn't cleaned our building since before lockdown.”
Some housing providers have tried to claim that the removal of close cleaning is ‘in line with new requirements to stop the spread of coronavirus’ - no such statement from the government exists and tenants have been at pains to point this out to rogue RSL landlords. Maryhill HA and Linthouse HA have both reinstated cleaning following tenant pressure and political input from elected representatives putting them right. Other landlords however continue to falsely assert government advice for removing vital close cleaning. The need for regulatory action is clear. There are around 600,000 tenants of social or council landlords, and the majority live in high density housing. Withdrawing cleaning for lifts, shared surfaces such as buttons, handrails, bin chutes, intercom systems and door handles (all of which are made of metal where the Covid-19 virus can live on for up to 7 days) in areas of high density and high footfall is playing with tenants’ lives.
Please sign our open letter : the Housing minister must act to safeguard tenants with regulatory action now.