Tracey Britten and her four kids were given a Section 21 eviction notice last year and declared themselves homeless in February, reports James Cracknell
Quadruplets aged four have been living with their mother in a Travelodge hotel for three times the legal limit after the family were evicted from their Enfield Town property.
Tracey Britten and her children Grace, Fredrica, Francesca and George have been living at Finchley Travelodge since the end of February – a total of 18 weeks and far beyond the government’s six-week legal limit for housing families in bed-and-breakfast (B&B) style temporary accommodation.
The family were evicted from their four-bedroom rental home in Tenniswood Road by their landlord, using a Section 21 (no fault) eviction notice, despite him telling them “they couldn’t have been better tenants”.
Tracey and her husband Stephen, who works full-time as a roofer, have been searching for over a year for a new home with four, three or even two bedrooms, but have been unable to find somewhere affordable as rental prices soar.
“I only picked winter clothes [to bring to the Travelodge] because I thought there was no way they would leave me in a hotel with four kids for this long,” Tracey told the Dispatch earlier this week.
“I have been looking for somewhere to live since April 2022 but the moment something goes up for rent it is gone. I have been to about five or six viewings – I think I am being discriminated against because I’ve got four kids.
“The council has not even sent me any viewings. They won’t allow us to move to a two-bed house, but they allow us to sleep in one room with all the kids in a hotel.”
The Brittens are one of around 350 Enfield homeless families now living in hotels as Enfield Council faces a homelessness crisis thought to be one of the worst in the UK. The borough has the highest Section 21 eviction rate in London and the council – which has far fewer social homes than neighbouring boroughs – has been unable to cope with the influx of families declaring homelessness.
Tracey has to drive for 45 minutes from Finchley to Enfield Town to get the quadruplets to their nursery school each day. They are due to start at St Andrew’s Primary School in September.
At the hotel, the family have been given a second room to use but because the kids are only four years old and the other room is further down the corridor, Tracey sleeps with them in the same room. Husband Stephen has been staying with his mother but sees the family regularly and takes the kids out when he’s not working.
George has been diagnosed with autism and there have been a few incidents where he has gone missing in the hotel, as the room doors are easy for him to unlock from the inside.
Tracey said: “He could have an accident or get snatched. We are on a main road. Twice someone has brought him up from downstairs. Once he went missing for ages and I found him on the stairs.”
Since moving to the hotel Tracey and Stephen have been paying several hundred pounds a month to store their possessions. Eating healthy food is also difficult without cooking facilities and takeaways – such as pizza, chips and kebabs – are the norm.
Tracey herself suffers from mental health issues and frequent back pain. Her ex-husband died in December around the time she was facing eviction. “I was all over the show,” she said. “I had to plan a funeral while I was waiting for bailiffs to throw us out. I told the council I can’t take it any more.”
Tracey said she has “not had a single call from the council” since the family were moved to the hotel. She now worries about the long-term impact the situation is having on her children. “They say ‘mummy, when are you finding us a new house?’,” said Tracey.
Enfield North MP Feryal Clark has echoed calls from Enfield Council for the government to intervene to help resolve the borough’s homelessness crisis. She said: “I am deeply concerned by the reports of homeless families living in temporary accommodation in Travelodge hotels. Sadly, this issue has become alarmingly frequent in Enfield.
“Enfield has the highest rate of Section 21 evictions in London, yet the government has been indecisive and delayed vital legislation for far too long.
“It is families in Enfield, like this heartbreaking story regarding the Britten family, who are paying the awful price for this.
“I have raised this issue in parliament and personally written to the minister on this matter.
“There is not enough suitable housing in Enfield and not enough protection for families.
“Urgently, I want to see the government intervene in the ongoing crisis in Enfield and ensure that there is suitable housing for all.”
Enfield Council has agreed a new policy that will see families in hotels offered temporary housing outside London and the south-east of England. Cabinet member for housing George Savva said last week: “We have no alternative but to follow the approach of many other local authorities and help find homeless households decent, stable homes in affordable areas outside of London.
“We will assist people to move with practical solutions. Our lobbying of the government to urgently address the rental and housing crises will continue.”
Update (30th June):
The Britten family have told the Dispatch that they are now being moved by Enfield Council into a four-bed home in the borough, as temporary accommodation.