The Salvation Army has been called a “delinquent” landlord, and “unscrupulous capitalists” over some hazardous housing it has failed to upgrade.
The church charity, known for its work among the poor, left some of its tenants in Hadleigh, Essex, living with mould, fire hazards, and at risk of death, according to a Guardian and ITV news investigation.
The conditions in Mount Zion and Seaview Terrace prevailed despite repeated requests by the tenant’s MP and council, over several years.
Rebecca Harris, MP for Castle Point, said the tenants also lived in fear of being evicted, a fear which the Salvation Army refused to allay, during these discussions.
The Army has apologised “unreservedly” for its failure to act, admitting the condition of the homes is “unacceptable” after Steve Mackenzie, an independent fire safety expert, who inspected one property for the Guardian and ITV News, said that building was a “fire trap” and called the Salvation Army’s conduct towards its Hadleigh tenants “delinquent under law.”
Peggy Jane Smith, a Salvation Army tenant in Hadleigh for 38 years, told The Guardian: “The unfortunate thing about the Salvation Army is, on the one side they have their spiritual side, but on the other side they’re behaving like hard-nosed, unscrupulous, capitalists.”
Speaking on behalf the charity, Anthony Cotterill, the charity’s territorial commander, said tenants had a right to be angry, but pledged that the Salvation Army is urgently working to fix the problem.
He said: “The condition of these houses is unacceptable. It is clear that we let down the tenants … and I am deeply sorry. As well as an unreserved apology, I would like to offer reassurance that for some months now we have been working on an urgent action plan to bring these properties up to the correct standard.
“Our tenants are right to be angry but with the help of our new property director, appointed in May 2021, we are confident that we are now taking urgent action to right these wrongs. Further senior appointments to manage planned works will also support the improvements process.”