A family renting in London have been threatened with eviction after complaints that their baby was crying.
They were warned by the management firm that if the noise went on they could be given “two weeks’ notice to vacate”.
The parents, with a 15-month-old daughter and a three-year-old son, say it is “horrible discrimination” against families renting with children.
The management firm said neighbours were being disturbed by noisy children and “other noise nuisance”.
Neighbours had complained “on a daily basis” and the other tenants had a right not to be troubled by noise, the company said.
Attila and Ildiko Wurth, with their two young children, are living in a privately rented top-floor flat in a converted house in Hammersmith, west London.
‘Heartless and harsh’
They say they were shaken to receive an email from the managing agent, saying there had been a “complaint stating 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.”
Attila says they were shocked by this “heartless and harsh” attitude and deeply upset by the idea of being thrown out of their home.
Another email said there had been further complaints and “if this continues we will have no choice but to issue a Section 8 notice, which will give you two weeks’ notice to vacate”.
The Wurths were told: “Please ensure to keep all movement and noise to a minimum.”
Uncertain about what to do next, they sought advice and were directed towards a housing helpline, which they said was always engaged.
In the end it was social media that got them some support, putting their problem on to Facebook.
“We felt so scared. We didn’t know what happens next. Will we come home and find our things in the road?”
Rising numbers of families are now living long-term in rented accommodation.
While once couples with children might have bought their own place, more are renting into their 30s and 40s – and the case highlights the pressures facing “generation rent”.
Attila works as a vet, but says the couple can’t afford to buy in London.
“We pay our own way, but we have no more to spare.
“You have to be extremely rich to have children in London,” he says.
The local authority, Hammersmith and Fulham, says that about a third of the residents in the borough are private renters.
This year it extended a licensing scheme to try to give private renters more protection and to ensure their legal rights.
Grounds for eviction?
The email to the Wurths warns of a “Section 8” eviction – referring to the Housing Act of 1988, which would allow a landlord to remove tenants before the end of their tenancy agreement.
The housing charity Shelter says this would require grounds such as not paying rent, anti-social behaviour or a breach of the tenancy agreement.
This could include being a “nuisance” to neighbours – but a court would have to decide whether such claims were reasonable.
“We have been very careful about noise,” says Attila. But if landlords rent to a family with young children, he says, it is unrealistic to think that a baby won’t cry sometimes.
“We don’t even have a stereo or a TV to make noise with – and we have avoided making any noise with household activities,” says Attila.
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”.
The agent says there had been “banging, stamping, loud footsteps”.
“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,” it says.
The management company says it has a responsibility to other tenants in the building – and to claims “that their contractual right to quiet enjoyment has been breached”.
Sheraton’s statement says: “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 Wurths are waiting to hear what will happen next.