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Dementia and Discrimination


'A nuisance.' 'Not normal.' 'Not right in the head'.

These are a few of the phrases my mum's landlord used to describe her just before he tried to evict her because she had dementia.

Obviously he couldn't say that the eviction was due to dementia. Even he wouldn't be that stupid, surely. Fortunately for us, it turned out he was. When we asked him to clarify exactly why he wanted mum out, he really didn't have to give us a reason. Luckily, he couldn't resist the opportunity to vent some more discriminatory vitriol and claimed (on tape) that mum's dementia had 'voided the insurance of the building', and that she was a 'danger to the community'. Handily, a quick call to a couple of insurance companies made it clear that he was talking rubbish.

This all happened a year ago, but it still winds me up that there are people like him in the world. People who believe that the law doesn't apply to them because they've inherited some property and so are richer, and therefore superior in every way, than the tenants who rent from them. I suppose when one is used to lording it up and down their own tiny piece of suburbia, one doesn't expect to be challenged by one of the serfs. Especially not one with dementia.

I'd have been a bit more accepting if we'd abandoned mum and left her alone in the flat with the gas on and a box of matches. But we didn't. Between my family and a team of professional carers, we worked out a system where she wouldn't have to be on her own. Well, that was the plan, until the landlord attempted to refuse to allow me or my brother to stay overnight in case we 'claimed squatters' rights'. I kid you not. It's almost laughable now. We weren't laughing at the time though. Looking after someone with dementia was stressful enough; having to deal with a bigoted landlord at the same time really didn't help.

Confidentiality doesn't apply to landlords either, apparently. His wife (who incidentally has nothing to do with his business but is on the local Gardening Committee, and is therefore a Very Important Person) rang up Social Services and demanded information about mum's illness. Which they gave her. I know, I was pretty incredulous as well. Anyway, we got an official apology from Social Services. Not from the wife though. She was most unapologetic, and apparently irate that someone like her, with a rich husband and a working knowledge of weeds, wasn't actually legally entitled to confidential information. Bloody data protection laws.

Despite the landlord's outrage that we dared to challenge his eviction notice, he didn't even bother turning up to court. I suppose he thought it was a done deal. We decided to contest it on the grounds of disability discrimination, so his penchant for Alf Garnett-style sound bites came in handy. We didn't want to put mum through the stress of appearing in court, what with having a terminal illness to deal with and all, so my brother and I represented her. It was a bit of a shock when the landlord tried to claim eight grand from us in legal expenses that he'd apparently accrued over three days. Unless his brief was Amal Clooney I'm not sure how he managed that one.

Luckily the Judge was equally baffled. He decided that the case was obviously complex and needed further investigation so he arranged another hearing, much to the landlord's dismay and our delight. A few weeks later we received a letter from the landlord's lawyer. Although he still viewed our actions as highly unreasonable, his client had decided to drop the case due to the financial implications involved in going to trial. He also decided to give mum a further twelve month tenancy. Funny that.

Mum had us to fight her corner. I dread to think how many people experience prejudice like this with nobody to defend them. The landlord's actions were discriminatory, but he'd have got away with it if we hadn't called him out. We were advised by both Citizen's Advice and Shelter that there was no way we could successfully challenge an eviction notice from a private landlord. I want people to know that sometimes it is possible. I get that it's his property. I get that he has the right to decide who lives in it. Hopefully him and his wife now get that tenants have rights too - even those who aren't 'right in the head'.

I don't think I'll be able to join the Gardening Committee anytime soon though. What a nuisance.

#discrimination #eviction

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