A social media story about tenants trashing a council house in Waltham Abbey that went viral with 700,000 views in two days was wrong. Epping Forest District Council is publicising details of what actually happened to set people’s minds at rest.
The property is actually vacant, the former tenant having recently passed away. The Council got the keys back at the beginning of the month and contractors were clearing it out ready for refurbishment as part of routine maintenance and upgrade before re-letting.
Councillor Syd Stavrou, Housing Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council said: “Councillors became aware of a social media storm over the weekend. A very strongly worded video showing old appliances, bath, sink and other rubbish piled in the back garden was being shared very widely. It was based on the completely mistaken assumption that new tenants had moved into the house and were ripping it apart. Blame was being attached to ‘foreign’ tenants with comments about people from other countries being put before local people.”
“In fact, the contractor clearing the house did not speak good English, leading to some confusion. However, they were actually working extremely hard to ensure the house was ready for the old fixtures and fittings to be cleared away on Monday, ready for work on the refurbishment to start with the minimum of delay.”
Must live in district for 5 years
“The Council’s housing policy says council housing applicants must have been resident in the district for a minimum of 5 years. Once the house has been refurbished, it will be let to a family in need of a new home on our housing waiting list.”
The power of social media
Councillor Stavrou, continued: “I am sorry for all the anxiety and inconvenience this has caused. These kinds of works are routine and usually cause no trouble. However, this instance shows how powerful social media can be and how careful people need to be before leaping to conclusions. We can all take lessons from it.”
Concerned? Contact the council
”I have asked our contractor to apologise to the neighbours. I will ask our contractors in future to post an explanatory card through the letter boxes of neighbouring residents before carrying out this type of work, and hopefully, next time residents have concerns, they will ring us first, before such misleading messages go viral.”
Timeline of events
1 June – The Council received the empty property keys.
2 June – The Council’s contractor inspected the property.
5 June – Asbestos report (always required before refurbishment work) requested.
9 June – AM Asbestos report received.
9 June – PM Contractors go in.
- This property had lots of the former tenant’s (deceased) household items to be removed before refurbishment work could start.
- Items including the bath, basin and WC are being removed and renewed.
- Items placed in garden for collection via back gate.
12 June – Garden scheduled to be cleared today (Monday 12 June).
- The garden will be returned to its existing condition on completion of the refurbishment.
- Photographs are taken before work starts to make sure the house and garden are returned a good standard at the end of the refurbishment.
23 June – Planned completion date.
26 June – Inspection and return of keys for re-letting.