Flagship Housing, their incompetence & how they show NO compassion when you lose a family member who is a tenant.

On Thursday 19th October my uncle (mums brother) passed away at his home in Newmarket. He was found by a friend. The police and were called and it was their duty to let us family know. Tony moved away from his hometown in Coventry to pursue his career as a professional Jockey many many years ago, all of his relatives reside in Coventry, almost 100 miles away. We were informed of his death on early on Friday morning (20th) and we had the heart-breaking task of informing his elderly mother, my nan.

Within an hour of hearing of his passing we, his family were on the road to Newmarket.
We were initially advised by Mildenhall Police of his death and were told to pick the keys up to his property from Mildenhall Police Station as they had concluded their business no reason to hold on to them so we headed straight to the police station where they didn’t seem to know why we were there initially. It took them about 20 minutes to finally let us know that the keys to Tony’s property had just been returned to Flagship housing just before our arrival (Even though they knew we were travelling from Coventry to collect them)

Anyhow, our next stop was the Flagship Homes Offices on Chiswick Ave, Mildenhall.

The offices looked closed and according to their opening times they were closed ( I think they were only open to the public for something silly like 2 hours a week!), We could see people inside so tried our luck with the doorbell. Someone answered. We were greeted by a lady and handed her the details of my uncle along with his address and informed them officially that he had passed (although the police too would have told them) We explained that we were his immediate family and asked for the keys to his property so that we could start sorting out his affairs, we also went on to explain that we had travelled almost 100 miles and that, of course, our time to do this was going to be quite limited due to the distance and as we were already there it would be convenient if we could make a start.

We were escorted to a room where we were told to wait. With me was my mother, my other uncle and my Nan. All of us had identification and were the closest relatives to him, we were asked to write down on a piece of paper who we were, our address and our relation to my uncle. My nan went on to inform them that she was his next of kin and proved her ID.

We were kept waiting for at least 25 minutes which, as you can imagine felt like forever. My relatives were extremely upset in this room and my elderly nan was in quite a state as you can imagine.

Finally, the original lady and another lady entered the room and informed us quite bluntly that we were not allowed the keys to the property due to legalities. They did not have any evidence of any such policy or legal information supporting this. They went on to inform us that because there is no will (at that point they didn’t know there was no will and wouldn’t know if no-one would be allowed into the property) they were not allowed to let us in just in case it was against his wishes. We were then informed that we would need to contact the Public Trustee for advice.

We stressed that we lived far away and that we had the chance that day to start dealing with things. They really were not going to budge. Not only that but they completely lacked any compassion.

That was that! We went to see his friends who live in his street it was so upsetting to be so close to his property and not be allowed access. He had a pet dog who was swiftly taken in by a friend but we were not allowed to get her belongings and comforts either. We went over to the property but all we could do was look through windows. This really upset all of us but especially my nan.
We were at a loss with this and in the coming weeks we were extremely busy with arranging his funeral (which was an amazing send-off) We were and still are trying to fund the funeral so as you can imagine any other costs at this time were just unaffordable – such as paying for a public trustee or legal advice.

My mum called Ali Beckett at Flagship to find out if they had any further information for us and at the beginning of the call she said “you do know that Mr X has passed?” – How my mother held her tone I don’t know. In reply, my mum said “Yes, He’s my brother” Ali giggled!!! – She GIGGLED!!!!!!

The only point of contact from Flagship following this was when they called my mother to ask her for Tony’s death certificate! So they cannot give us access or information but can ask us for it in relation to Tony. We asked if providing this would offer any leverage with gaining access to the property but the answer was no. It was simply to end his tenancy so we refused to provide the certificate at this time.

We never heard anything from Flagship from then on, luckily we were informed by a friend from his street about the following notice put on his door on 24th November 2017 titled
TORTS (INTERFERENCE WITH GOODS) ACT 1977
NOTICE IMPOSING OBLIGATION TO COLLECT GOODS

We were not told anything by Flagship about them seeking possession of the property but they had in fact done so in this time. If it hadn’t of been for Tony’s friends we wouldn’t have known about any of this.

The notice was addressed to the legal representative of my uncle and was informing us that they had taken back possession of the property and that his belongings were being held for a period of 7 days and that after that date any items not collected would be disposed of by Flagship. (I have since found out that from the date of removal they are legally bound to store his belongings for a period of 28 days I do not yet know if this has been done but I have an Email on its way to Flagship asking this information) We immediately got in touch and offered to collect the items at the earliest convenience as per the notice and that we were happy for FLAGSHIP to be present whilst we do so but guess what….We STILL were not allowed in.

After asking online for some help I had a man contact me from a private investigation company who offered to help. He called the number on the notice and spoke to Sarah and introduced himself. He asked her to provide evidence of the Flagship Policy they were working to and also provide evidence of the legal document they are also referring to. He was told that she was uncomfortable speaking about our families affairs to him, he explained that he wasn’t asking her to divulge any personal information nor did he want to discuss personal information he just wanted to see the policy which should be publicly available on request – She put the phone down on him!! As far as I am aware, company policy’s should be made available either readily or on request. I have tried to find their policies online but I cannot locate any at all.

I immediately called the number and there was no answer.

That was it, we had tried! There was nothing more we could do. FLAGSHIP HOUSING did not give an ounce of shit! There was absolutely no compassion and no offer of help given the situation.
To twist the knife a bit further, they extended the notice by a further 7 days, when a family friend went over to the property as they were changing the notice she asked why it was being extended she was advised it was something to do with a TV? possibly missing in the property. Again, we were not informed of this and to this day do not know what they meant by this.

Have they failed to secure the property?
Are they hiding something?
Is this why they wouldn’t let us in?

On 12th December 2017 – 12 days before Christmas.
My uncle’s belongings and whole life were removed from his property and thrown away. My nan, my mum, my uncle have no keepsakes, no photo’s, nothing to remember him by.

This inconsiderate action prompted me to write this post on Facebook. It went viral within hours and grabbed the attention of the media. 

and having read many of the comments, it’s very clear to see that Flagship Housing Organisation has touched the nerve of many.

I’ve since been advised that upon clearing the property of my uncle’s belongings they should have taken a legally binding inventory of items removed, they then should have been put into storage for 28 days. As we stand right now – this is where they should be.

On Monday 18th December I received a call from Nick Bunn from Flagship Housing. Who spoke to me regarding the incident. He explained that he is launching an internal investigation into the matter. At this point I asked him to provide me with copies of all the policies that relate to this matter that they have quoted to me. He took down my Email address but 5 days later I’m still waiting to receive such information. I also asked him to confirm if the belongings were in storage but again….still waiting.

I am aware that Flagship Housing is currently under investigation by the Ombudsman for their bereavement policy and previous fraudulent action. Interesting to see how my situation sits with that. I will take this to court if I prove any wrongdoing has taken place.

Update: 8th January 2018

Nick Bunn at Flagship housing has been carrying out an internal investigation. His findings were that they didn’t act totally correctly however we still have many questions.  Ali at Flagship has admitted laughing down the phone her response to this was that it was a nervous laugh and wasn’t sure who she was speaking to. My question here is, if she didn’t know who she was speaking to should she be divulging personal information? “Mr Skingle has passed away” is that not data protection? Nick agreed with this, apologised and suggested a possible training issue. I should think so too!

In Nick’s finding’s we were told that the original Tort’s notice that was served on the property was in correct as he states:

“As there was no executor to the estate, we served a Notice to Quit and sent a copy to the public trustee. Which is standard practice to end a tenancy where there is no executor. The Notice to Quit was served on 27.10.2017.

A notice known as a Torts notice, was served which allowed 7 days for the collection of the goods, providing the relevant information was obtained. In this case we would have needed to see grant of probate or proof of representation. At this stage, our legal team advised that we needed to give 14 days rather than the 7 days on the original Tort notice. This was then amended by the Housing team, giving another 7 days. We apologise that we did not give the correct amount of notice on the initial notice, this is a training issue that we have identified and are correcting. We should have also made you aware that we had served the Torts notice, I would like to apologise that this wasn’t done.”

He agrees that they should have also made us aware that they had served notice on the property.4

Interestingly also, Nick states “The notes from our system show that the Sister advised, they probably wouldn’t pursue instructing a solicitor, as there wasn’t much in the property” This is NOT true as you can see in a screenshot of the actual E-mail below.

Now, here is what has shocked me the most.

“A very small number of personal items were found, which we have kept. When we carried out the removal of items, care was taken to look for any personal belongings. The only personal belongings we have found are listed below.

  • 3 Provident Payment books
  • 4 Photographs
  • Empty Lloyds bank deposit envelope”

These have been sent to us by Flagship and are the ONLY belongings of my Uncle that we have. Even this was inconsistent as we have only been sent 3 of the 3 photographs (As well as the other items). It’s almost insulting.

I was told on the phone by Nick that Tony’s food had been donated to a local food bank, His furniture has been disposed of. There are still many discrepancies regarding items that appear to be missing such as TV’s and his laptop. I have asked where these are and have been told they were not inside the property?? I have also asked about his personal clothes, Nick could not tell me where these are and has offered to look into this further. His clothes! Where are they? To date, we still don’t have answer on this.

A number of my uncle’s belongings were from a rental store. It has been confirmed that this company had access to the property to retrieve their items.

So just to some up in one picture below – These are the ‘keepsakes’ we now have of my uncle

 

The summary of Nick’s report is as follows:

“Findings

Following the investigation into the actions we have taken, I am satisfied that the correct advice was given to the family regarding access to the property and the belongings. I know that this must be a distressing time and I am sorry if this has caused you additional worry which was not our intention.

Whilst I am satisfied that we have given the correct advice, we could have made the current situation clearer to you by following up our conversations in writing. Although we did verbally advise what steps needed to be taken in order to gain the relevant legal representation, I do understand that the family would have had lots going on that needed to be sorted, combined with not living locally would have made this difficult task even harder. Especially as this involved seeking legal advice at a time where the family would have had to sort many matters out. I do accept that we could have done more. 

Learnings

  • We will provide Housing staff with refresher training to highlight the importance of taking photos of all rooms when clearing a property in future, so that we have a full record. Whilst this is done on the majority of cases we need to ensure it is done for all, even if there are only a few possessions.
  • We will provide refresher training to our staff regarding the legalities surrounding access to property and personal belongings when there has been a bereavement.
  • We will follow up conversations in writing, that have important information, or actions as a result.
  • We will re-iterate the importance of ensuring that staff communication is compassionate, supportive and reflects the situation.

We do understand that this is a very difficult time for families.  We will from time to time encounter situations which are uncommon and we may need to seek further guidance. This is not an excuse not to be compassionate and sympathetic in what is a distressing time for the family.

Whilst there are some obvious learnings, and we accept some communication could have been carried out better, the advice we have given was correct. However, going forwards we will take steps that enable staff to seek the correct advice more quickly, minimising the impact on families.

I would like to sincerely apologise for any distress that we may have caused. As mentioned above, I can send the personal belongings to the relevant address, I will send this recorded delivery to ensure the safe arrival. I would be thankful if you could confirm when you have the items in your possession.”

This is where we are at right now. We are continuing to take matters further and seek advice on this.

What are your thoughts? Comments welcome below.

5 replies
  1. PENNY WOOSTER
    PENNY WOOSTER says:

    It’s despicable the insensitive way in which you were dealt with. And there are no excuses for the pig ignorance AND arrogance of the staff. These people should now be out of a job. I say boycott this company; it’s the least they deserve

    Reply
    • SavvyMumUK
      SavvyMumUK says:

      I’ve heard so much negativity about them. It would be great if people could boycott the company but sadly they hold the trump card on housing in that area and the demand for housing is more of a need. This is why they can get away with it because people will always need a property and they would never turn one down due to moral – I wouldn’t expect them to either.
      Fingers crossed this triggers an audit and a big shakeup. If it means no-one else goes through this then our job is done. xx

      Reply
  2. Rebecca johnston
    Rebecca johnston says:

    No account of where his clothes and electrical items are?
    They were not in the property?
    Furniture was destroyed? Surely it’d be donated?! The cost of destroying it would surely be more for them?
    Sound like a bunch of incompetent immoral THIEVES if you ask me! Makes you wonder how many people have gone through the same treatment but not had the opportunity to share like you via Facebook etc.
    Well done for exposing them and demanding answers! Thoughts are with you, your mum, your man and rest of your family xx

    Reply
    • SavvyMumUK
      SavvyMumUK says:

      Thank you Rebecca, I’ve heard so much negativity about them since I have exposed them.
      I am still waiting to hear where his clothes are let alone the rest of the items. xx

      Reply
  3. Jean Vaughan
    Jean Vaughan says:

    Words cannot convey my true feelings on this issue but without a doubt action needs to be taken. Personally, I would contact my local MP when he/she next holds a public surgery, take copies of everything and share with them. They are elected to work on your behalf, let them do their job.

    Reply

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