London

Housing chief resigns over allegations of malpractice

Damp wall in a trust's property
Image caption Residents have complained about damp conditions

A founder of a housing association has resigned as a trustee over claims of widespread malpractice.

The London Housing Trust is accused of providing shabby accommodation and offering poor or no support services.

An investigation found drugs were taken by some residents and food given by food banks was taken by staff.

The trust, which runs 40 hostels across south London, said it was unaware of the claims and a new regime was now in place.

In a joint investigation between BBC London and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, it found that the accommodation was damp and had mildew.

Image caption Residents' names were put on utility bills without their consent

Residents said they were wrongfully charged for utility bills and promised support services such as a 24-hour concierge which did not materialise.

The investigation also found the trust claimed it was as a charity yet it is not registered as one.

Stephen Dellar, who was the trust's director and financial director, owned properties he was renting to London Housing Trust (LHT) and was also providing services to the trust through two separate companies of his.

The housing association regulator and Croydon Council have both launched their own investigations.

Mr Dellar has not commented on the allegations.

'Complete failure'

A whistleblower who works as a support worker at the trust's headquarters said he had been told to put previous residents' names on bills without their knowledge.

He said the trust would tell British Gas: "We're a housing association. That client has moved on, you can't cut us off."

The support worker also raised concerns that a women's refuge in Croydon did not have staff available 24 hours a day.

One resident, who did not want to be named but has been living there for a month, said: "Three weeks, a month in. Never heard from no-one - never saw anyone. They would pop round and spend five minutes and go.

"There is no support and if I don't get it, everything goes downhill."

The whistleblower agrees. He said: "I don't believe in one 24-hour period it's actually been staffed since it opened in late December.

"It's a massive let down. It's a complete failure by London Housing Trust."

Image caption The trust said it was unaware that some staff had helped themselves to food

He said as a result, conditions in the refuge were allowed to deteriorate badly, culminating in some instances of substance abuse.

"I've met most of the women in that house. So generally, cocaine, heroine, cannabis and alcohol would be the main drugs in there.

"You may also find some the synthetic drugs, the legal highs such as Spice being used as well "

The trust said it was not aware of staff helping themselves to food crates and that their rent rates were independently audited and approved by the local authority.

It said the women's refuge in Croydon was staffed 24 hours on a shift pattern and it has the payroll records to prove it.

It admitted providing tenants' names to British Gas but dispute that this was unlawful and said residents had always been liable for their own bills.

A new regime is now in place with pre-pay meters.

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