A dad-of-three has been fined £900 for leaving his children’s TOYS in a communal garden – after housing officials branded them a health and safety hazard.
Ben Keitch, 24, was stunned when he was told the wooden swing and toy cars were a fire risk meaning he had breached his tenancy agreement.
He even cleared the toys – including a kid’s table and chairs – from the communal garden in Lingmell Court in Worcester, prior to his court appearance.
However, the dad, who has two sons aged one and four and a two-year-old daughter, was still fined when he appeared at Worcester County Court on January 8.
Ben, who is receiving benefits, is only able to pay off the penalty in weekly instalments of £3.70 – meaning it will take him over four-and-a-half years to pay it off.
Since moving into the property, run by West Mercia Homes, in 2013, he has had to install a 3ft (0.9m) picket fence in a bid to stop his neighbour’s dogs from defecating on the lawn.
However, he has now been forced to remove the barrier along with the toys – which he now takes back inside the two-bedroom property every night.
Ben, who lives with his girlfriend Danielle Newman, 23, and sleeps on a mattress in his living room, said: “They [West Mercia Homes] said they [the toys] were a fire hazard.
“They started sending me the letters this summer saying all personal belongings must be removed from the communal gardens.
“I refused to do anything about it, I thought ‘this is a joke’.
“We had a kid’s table, chairs and a little wooden swing. I cleared the garden before I had to go to court.
“I phoned Nexus Housing [now West Mercia Homes] and said ‘I’ve got rid of all the toys, do I still have to come to court?’. They said yes.
“We are on benefits. I fell out of a tree a couple of years ago and ruined my back.
“I’m on Jobseeker’s Allowance, they just took me off Employment and Support Allowance. My girlfriend is a full-time mum. I don’t have the means to contest it [the fine].
“I don’t think it’s healthy the way we are living.
“We have got no choice. Now we have got this £900 debt I don’t think they will let me move.
“They stand at the back window now saying ‘can we go outside today’, I say no. There’s so much dog mess outside.”
A spokesman for West Mercia Homes said: “As a social landlord we have a responsibility to our customers to ensure our communal areas are safe and we see court action as a last resort.
“We had been working with Mr Keitch to resolve this issue, which was a breach of his tenancy conditions, since July 2016 and only began legal action in November 2017.
“Throughout this process we kept Mr Keitch informed of the steps we were taking and that we would seek to recover our costs which the court set at £900.
“We are pleased to say that we have agreed an affordable repayment plan with Mr Keitch to reduce the financial burden on his family.”