Barton House evacuation: Tower block residents asked to pay rent by Bristol City Council

Residents have been forced to leave their homes. Credit: PA

People forced to leave their homes at Barton House in Bristol are still being asked to pay rent while the council is paying to put them up in hotels.

However, mayor Marvin Rees said the council’s housing staff are "being very empathetic about the situation", because of the ongoing challenges being endured by families living out of hotel rooms.

More than 400 people - including around 100 children - were told to pack a bag of clothes and leave on the evening of Tuesday 14 November.

They were given less than five hours to leave the 98 flats after surveys flagged a “risk to the structure of the block”.

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said that more formal discussions with residents about the situation with rent payments for the flats in Barton House had not yet taken place, as the council is prioritising sorting out issues around emergency hotel accommodation first.

But the Mayor of Bristol confirmed he had spoken to a number of residents to make it clear that, in principle, the council would be charging rent to those evacuated who are now living in a hotel.Many went to stay with friends and relatives, but the situation is now going into its second week, and residents are still waiting to hear if they will be able to return to their homes.

More than 65 households are staying at the Holiday Inn in the city centre, 13 are relying on friends and family and others are defying the council’s evacuation order and have returned or remained at Barton House.It is understood that those who are staying with friends and family won’t be asked to pay rent this month, but those in a council-funded hotel will be, even though the flat they pay rent for has been declared unsafe.

The Mayor of Bristol said that this was because the council was still legally fulfilling its duty to house them, but housing officers and support staff are working with the residents on other issues like the utility bills they would still be incurring too.

People have been protesting about the tower block evacuation. Credit: BPM MEDIA

The mayor said: “I’ve talked to a couple of residents. In terms of those in the hotels, they are (being charged rent) at the moment, but we’re being very empathetic about that.

“But at the same time we are providing accommodation, food and services for people.“Talking to the residents who have fed back as well, on bills, we have done a bit of outreach to the utilities companies to say ‘if you have customers who are residents of Barton House, please reach out and offer some flexibility to them as well’, we’re obviously trying to wrap ourselves around people’s challenges.”

Tenants union ACORN is calling for Barton House residents to have their November rent reimbursed. The union is also calling for an independent investigation into what has happened at Barton House, for the residents to be re-housed locally, a rent pause, compensation for residents and support for the mental health and childcare for all affected residents.