H&F Council Mistakenly Ordered Woman to Get Rid of Cat

Told she and her children would be homeless if she didn't

Natasha Charles (left). Picture: Facundo and Cookie (right). Picture Natasha Charles

June 18, 2024

A woman was told she would have to ditch her pet cat if she wanted to move into a new flat, with the threat that she’d be homeless unless she complied. Natasha Charles, who lives with her two daughters in Brent but is under the care of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) getting rid of their five-year-old cat, Cookie, would have caused ‘devastation’ to her and her children.

It was only after the horrified 40-year-old continued to question the fairness and raise the impact on her daughters, 10 and 12, of losing the ’emotional support’ provided by Cookie, that the council said the stipulation was made in error. Ms Charles said, “The first emotion I felt was absolute anger, rage, I felt devastated for my children. As soon as I was reading [the email], my body language, everything – we were out as well – my whole body language changed.”

A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesperson said the local authority has apologised to Ms Charles for its poor service, and that it is working to find her suitable temporary accommodation from a private landlord which allows pets. Ms Charles has been in temporary accommodation in Brent for a number of years and has been moved around to different homes by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

She’s been hoping to be moved back to her home borough, and was contacted by the council on 31 May informing her of the offer of new temporary accommodation in White City. Not only would the property be in-borough, unlike their current place in Wembley, Ms Charles said she was encouraged by pictures she received of the flat. The family then met an agent at the property the following week to show them around their potential new home.

It was during the visit that Ms Charles mentioned she has a cat. The agent told her the landlord, from whom the council leases the flat, does not allow pets. She said this had not come up in any of the relevant housing forms, and that the council’s housing department was aware she had a cat in her current home.

After contacting Hammersmith and Fulham, Ms Charles was told the council does not allow pets ‘in any of our temporary accommodation’. The officer who sent the email further wrote she would have to make her own arrangements for the cat, and that if she did not accept the property, ‘the council will take this as a refusal, discharge its s193 housing duty to you’.

They added, “This means that you would have made you and your family homeless and will have to make your own arrangements and your current TA (temporary accommodation) will also be cancelled.”

“It would have been devastation for all of us,” Ms Charles said. “But I feel I would have gotten it times three, because I would have then had the guilt on top, like it’s my fault my children have lost their cat. And that on top of everything else that I’ve already been dealing with, that would be rock, rock bottom. I don’t know how we’d function.”

Ms Charles was initially given a deadline of the next day to accept the offer, before this was extended to later that same week, before the council eventually realised its mistake. A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesperson has since clarified the information in the email to Ms Charles was incorrect, and that it does not have a no-pets approach.

They said the local authority works with a range of suppliers, each of whom has their own policy. Ms Charles has also confirmed the council has been in touch to provide an update. The spokesperson added demand for council housing and temporary accommodation remains high due to the national housing crisis, with pressures including high inflation and workforce and supply chain issues further affecting the service.

“We have apologised to Ms Charles for the poor service,” they said. “We are working with her to find suitable temporary accommodation from a private landlord which allows for pets. We have spoken with Ms Charles to outline all the ways we can continue to support her with her housing needs.”


Ben Lynch - Local Democracy Reporter