Social housing tenants in West Leeds are being warned about cold callers claiming either to be from housing associations, Leeds council, or a firm of solicitors who can help to secure a compensation payment for outstanding repairs.
Housing association chiefs have spoken of vulnerable householders who have felt forced into signing paperwork to bring a claim against a housing association, and have then been told they cannot withdraw the claim without paying as much as £750 to the doorstep caller.
Both Leeds & Yorkshire Housing Association and Leeds Federated Housing have advised tenants not to sign anything without first speaking to their landlords.
Mark Pearson, Chief Executive, Leeds & Yorkshire Housing Association, told WLD: “Disreputable claims management companies, often claiming to be from ‘the housing’ or working on the landlord’s behalf, are increasingly approaching social housing customers offering to ‘help them claim compensation for repairs not carried out’.
“In reality, these companies are not trying to help others but to make money for themselves. The legal action that ensues can end up being very stressful and costly for customers, some of whom are elderly or vulnerable, who end up receiving little, if anything, financially at the end of the legal action.
“The practice is unfortunately a growing problem throughout the housing sector and we want to alert people to it, particularly as people may be particularly vulnerable to these false promises when they are currently struggling with the cost of living.
“Instead, we encourage customers to always talk to their landlord in the first instance if they have repairs that need doing or if previous work has not been carried out satisfactorily (whether that be a housing association or the local council), so that issues can be resolved quickly and effectively.
“We would also encourage people to always check the identity of callers at their door, ask to see ID and certainly don’t sign anything until first speaking to their landlord.”
In a statement on social media, Leeds Federated Housing said: “We have been contacted by several concerned customers and their relatives who have received cold calls, both by doorstep knockers and by telephone, from strangers claiming either to be from Leeds Federated, the Council, or a firm of solicitors who can help to secure a compensation payment for outstanding repairs. They do this by bringing a disrepair claim against us as your landlord.
“We have sadly had reports that some customers felt forced into signing paperwork to bring a claim against Leeds Federated, and on further investigation they have then been told they cannot withdraw the claim without paying as much as £750 to the doorstep caller to cancel this contract.
“We have even had claims through from customers who have moved into long-term residential care, with no knowledge of the claim brought in their name and clearly forged signatures on the papers.
“We have had particular concerns raised this month, August 2022, about our customers being targeted and encouraged to bring disrepair claims against Leeds Federated, often with the promise of large payouts that never materialise. Many people are particularly vulnerable to these promises at the moment with serious concerns over the cost of living crisis.
“As you know, defending these claims costs us a lot of money in legal fees. Very little, if anything, is seen by the customer who has had a claim brought in their name. We would much rather spend this money carrying out your repairs or planning new kitchens and bathrooms for your homes.
“We would encourage you to:
– Talk to us! If you are unhappy with a repair or outstanding repair, let us know. Talk to our repairs team, or raise a complaint and we’ll do our best to work with you and resolve this.
– Look out for vulnerable relatives who could be approached by these cold callers
– Not sign anything presented to you by a stranger
– If you do need to take legal advice, seek out a reputable firm and do your research.
– Check any cancellation fees before signing anything.”