Facing eviction because baby was crying too loudly: Heartless reality for London’s ‘generation rent’

Facing eviction because baby was crying too loudly: Heartless reality for London’s ‘generation rent’
A young family could find themselves homeless, threatened with eviction from their rental property after neighbors complained to the agency their baby was crying too loudly. The case opens a window on London’s housing crisis.

Attila and Ildiko Wurth, of London’s Hammersmith, live in a privately rented top-floor flat in a converted house with their 15-month-old daughter and three-year-old son. The Wurth family were shocked to receive an email from the managing agent of their property, stating that a complaint had been made “that at 5.30am this morning a baby was crying and stamping and then further noise starting again at 6.45am, which woke one of the other tenants in the property.”

“We have subsequently liaised with your landlord and are instructed that we are to agree arrangements with you to vacate the property as soon as possible. Please ensure to keep all movement and noise to a minimum,” the agent added.

The parents say the eviction threat is “horrible discrimination” against families renting with children. They were also told that if the noise continued, they would be “given two weeks’ notice” to vacate as neighbors had complained on “a daily basis.” According to the agent, other tenants had also complained about “banging, stamping, [and] loud footsteps.”

The Wurth family say they are now not sure what to do, with dad Attila insisting the family have been “very careful about noise.” He added: “We don’t even have a stereo or a TV to make noise with – and we have avoided making any noise with household activities.”

The father of two said if landlords are renting to families with small children, it’s not realistic to think that a baby won’t occasionally cry. However, the managing agent, Sheraton Management Ltd, says the Wurths “were in breach of contract as they were causing disturbance to the other occupants of the building ... not only relating to noisy children, but also other noise nuisance.”

“Reluctantly, as there was no remission in the problem, it was on this basis that we advised Mrs Wurth that we may be left with no alternative but to serve a notice for possession. We manage numerous properties lived in by families, some with very young children. Our policy is always to avoid the necessity for repossession proceedings.”

The agent told the family that if the noise were to continue that they would be evicted under “section eight” of the Housing Act of 1988, which allows landlords to remove tenants from their property prior to the end of their tenancy. Forced removal from a property can occur if tenants fail to pay rent, breach the tenancy agreement, or display anti-social behavior. This would include if tenants were considered to be a nuisance to their neighbors, however a court has the final say on whether the nuisance claims are reasonable.

About a third of residents in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham are private renters, a reality that reflects the rising number of families living long-term in rental accommodation. According to the English Housing Survey, more and more people are tenanting into their 30s and 40s, whereas in previous years young families may have bought their own home.

The Wurth family fall into the “generation rent” category. Although Attila works as a vet, the couple can’t afford to buy a home in London.