Rent payments suspended for residents forced to flee homes

Updated: 

Rent has been suspended for residents forced to leave their homes in the shadow of Grenfell Tower after being crippled by a lack of utilities.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea claimed payments would not be requested for those living in the so-called "finger blocks" until January 2018 at the earliest.

The three buildings, on Barandon Walk, Testerton Walk and Hurstway have been without hot water since the neighbourhood's boiler, located beneath Grenfell Tower, was destroyed in the fire.

Any rent deducted from tenants since the blaze will be refunded, a spokesman said.

It follows reports a survivor of the inferno found she had been charged rent for her ruined flat.

A council spokesman said: "We are focused on the needs of all affected residents, including those from Barandon Walk, Testerton Walk and Hurstway.

"This group of residents have suffered a huge disruption to their lives as they were evacuated from their homes.

"They will not have to pay rent from the date of the fire until end of January 2018 when we will review the situation.

"If any resident has had a direct debit or standing order payment for their rent taken this will be refunded.

"We will be writing to everyone shortly to inform them of this.

"Some residents have already returned to their homes.

"We expect to have the hot water supply restored during the next week so anybody else who wants to go back home can do so.

"We will continue to provide temporary accommodation for those that don't want to return."

The development was greeted with caution by those living in the area, who have been staying in emergency accommodation.

Joe Delaney, 37, told the Press Association it was "welcome news", but added: "Can they confirm that any money that they consider as being paid to residents will not be deducted from any compensation that residents may eventually receive?"

The Radical Housing Network, of which campaigners Grenfell Action Group is a part, had earlier called for rent to be halted and refunded, saying: "The trauma of the entire Lancaster West community is unimaginable, none of the residents should pay rent when questions over the safety of their homes remain."