Gosport mum left 'contemplating suicide' after being threatened with eviction during Covid second wave
A MUM was left contemplating taking her own life after being ordered to leave her rented home during the pandemic.
Kaye Styler, who has three children, was given notice to quit her four-bed home in Fareham Road, Gosport, in September 2020 just as the second Covid-19 wave swept Britain.
She had moved into the home in 2019, leaving her house in nearby Rowner in a hurry having taken out a £3,000 loan to do so.
Kaye, 40, was happy to have secured a tenancy after five times being refused. She was accepted only after she offered to pay two months' rent in advance.
She paid her £975 monthly rent in full, relying on housing and child-related benefits.
But landlord Steve Fidgeon issued her with notice to quit the property using a no-fault eviction process, known as section 21.
No official reason had to be given, but there was a longstanding dispute over her dog - not allowed according to her tenancy - and gardening upkeep.
Her case is among the 30 observed by The News and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism as part of a major investigation into evictions during the pandemic.
At first Kaye, who was struggling with money and poor mental health, said she ‘didn't know what to do’.
She said: ‘It was absolutely awful, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know if I could phone the council.
‘I had no money behind me, I was having issues with benefits - I was living on child benefit and Universal Credit monthly.
‘I was going through hardship with money, I was having to go to food banks and to my mum and dad - that was happening on top of the pandemic and having to move out.
‘I was trying to find somewhere but I couldn’t see anywhere to go - I was going to be homeless with my children.
‘I was in a state, my mental health was really bad.
‘I contemplated suicide because I thought that would be easier and I thought my kids deserved better.’
She added: ‘I didn’t want to be there, I’d had enough. It was driving me to the ground.
‘The house ended up looking messy because I was so, so depressed and I couldn’t see a way out. I felt absolutely stuck.’
There was no way she could raise enough money for a deposit and find somewhere new, she said.
At the time she was surviving on just £200 a month from Universal Credit and £35 a week child support allowance.
When a friend told her councils were helping people in the pandemic, she did turn to Gosport Borough Council.
She called in tears and was offered emergency accommodation in Southampton or Portsmouth - miles away from her teenage daughter and son's school.
The authority told her to stay put, or that she would be deemed as having made herself intentionally homeless - and was advised due to the pandemic bailiffs could not be sent out to kick her out.
At the same time housing officers warned her that if she refused emergency accommodation she would not be eligible for it again.
Court papers for an eviction had arrived. Kaye’s sister in Lee-on-the-Solent offered two bedrooms she could use - and she moved out, spending hours trying to clear up the garden and property.
She released her £1,075 deposit to Mr Fidgeon, and paid an extra £500 as a gesture of goodwill after he said £4,500 worth of damage was found.
Kaye thought that was the final word having moved out before a court could evict her - and ultimately went on to live with her mum and dad, who also live in Fareham Road, Gosport.
‘I thought it was all over and I’ve left the property,’ she said. ‘I didn’t think he would want (the court hearing) to proceed.’
But she was stunned when she was issued with court paperwork saying Mr Fidgeon was still pursuing a possession hearing.
When she arrived at Havant Justice Centre, Mr Fidgedon made clear to the judge he wanted her to pay the £350 cost of him initiating the possession claim.
Kaye wept during the 33-minute hearing, trying to show the judge she thought their out-of-court settlement was full and final.
But the judge said none of the messages he saw on Kaye's phone prove that, and ordered her to pay £350 in 28 days.
Kaye left the court hearing, attended by The News, in floods of tears. ‘I couldn’t get out fast enough, as soon as it was over I was out the door and gone.’
Despite having paid the final £350 she says she still has nightmares about being back in Mr Fidgeon’s property.
‘I’m very pleased (to be out) but I’m having nightmares that I’m over there,’ she said.
‘I had a nightmare - I was over there and panicking that stuff wasn’t done in time. I woke up and wasn’t there anymore and it was a relief. I’m scared to rent privately again.’
In court, landlord Mr Fidgeon said he issued a no-fault section 21 notice as the property was ‘up for offer’.
He informed her the ‘tenancy wouldn’t be extended’ prior to this, and he said in court she went to the council a week before she was due out after six months’ notice.
At the hearing, he said: ‘There was a lot of damage in the property, £4,500 worth which we agreed... the deposit would be returned plus £500.
‘The thing that I find annoying is that she didn’t inform the council until one week before the end of her section 21 - six months’ notice - when she was aware the year beforehand that her tenancy wouldn’t be extended.
‘She hadn’t allowed any inspection at the property which was up for offer because she wouldn’t help in any such stretch of the imagination and she basically put it all down to Covid.’
Speaking to The News, he said: ‘When two parties cannot agree with something, it’s possible to seek a judgment.
‘That judgment went in our favour. I hope that Miss Styler finds another property better suited to her family’s needs and requirements.’
‘We had a disagreement, I asked for a judgment, the judgment went in my favour and I hope she finds a property more suited for her family needs.’