Quadriplegic given eviction notice after 25 years in modified home

Quadriplegic bed-bound man, 62, is issued an eviction notice by his landlord after 25 years living in his modified Hove home with his full-time carer partner amid bitter three-year legal battle

  • Dr Harvey Cowe was issued an eviction notice from his specially modified home
  • Dr Cowe is paralysed from the neck down and has lived in the home for 25 years 
  • Wife Sheree is his carer, they managed to raise £900,000 to buy the Hove house
  • The landlord said they wanted to put the home on the market to get more money 
  • A Hove councillor said bailiffs can’t be allowed to drag Cowe out on his mattress 

A quadriplegic, bed-bound man is living in fear of losing his Sunderland home after his landlord issued an eviction notice.

Dr Harvey Cowe, 62, who lives on Brittany Road, Hove with his wife Sheree, 55, received a notice for eviction last Tuesday (August 2).

Dr Cowe has been effectively paralysed from the neck down since 1984 following a car accident in the Lake District. 

The couple, who are originally from Sunderland, have rented their detached home for 25 years and Sheree now acts as her husband’s full-time carer.

The property has been specially modified to meet his needs, with a hydrotherapy pool and voice-activated computer among the additions to ensure he can continue his work as an academic researcher.

After the landlords expressed their will to sell the Hove property in 2019, both parties agreed to make efforts to allow the Cowe family to raise the funds necessary to purchase it.

Dr Harvey Cowe, 62, and his wife Sheree, 55, are facing being evicted from the specially modified home they have lived in for 25 years – despite raising the funds to purchase it

On March 22 this year from the landlords’ legal representation proposed to those of the Cowe family: ‘Our client is prepared to consider that proposition on the basis that your client withdraws their application to set aside the Possession Order and in turn our client will agree to not enforce that Order for three months.’

Rachel Lashmar, speaking on behalf of the landlords, told SussexLive: ‘We can’t comment on the case itself except to say this has been an incredibly complex and emotional situation for all parties involved spanning three years.’

While Harvey and Sheree were able to raise funds with help from family members, Brighton and Hove City Council also offered a loan to the family to help purchase the property, and ‘made sure everything was in place for the proposed purchase by the Cowe family’.

Councillor David Gibson, co-chair of the council’s housing committee, claims that the loan was based on a valuation of the property, and that the offer was ‘known to all the parties’. 

The Cowe family accepts that despite the three-month ‘grace’ period ending on July 6, they were able to finalise the offer of £900,000 two weeks after the deadline.

Following the offer being made, the tenants received an eviction notice on August 2. 

In correspondence with Dr Cowe on July 26, and seen by SussexLive, the landlords state they ‘must proceed with putting the property on the market’ and that they will ‘welcome any offers that are in keeping with the market value of the property’.

SussexLive has seen email correspondence in which the landlords explain their intention to put the property on the open market to achieve the highest possible sale price. 

However, Dr Cowe claims multiple valuations were made of the property ahead of the decision to purchase, with none higher than £950,000.

Following a court decision on Tuesday (August 9), bailiffs reportedly arrived at the property the same day. 

The couple, who live in Brittany Road with their 17-year-old son, have described the terrifying ordeal.

‘It was horrendous,’ Mrs Cowe said. ‘The bailiffs came and drilled through the doors. It went on for 40 minutes.

‘Harvey can’t even get out of bed, we haven’t got a place to go. I naively thought if you didn’t answer then they would go away, but they managed to get into the side of the house.

‘I had to move the electric wheelchair against the other door so they couldn’t get any further. The bailiffs said they we going back for a higher warrant, and said they could return any day.

‘They said the police could arrest us and put us in a cell. I was so scared, the thought of the bailiffs coming again is awful.’

Dr Cowe told SussexLive: ‘I’m stuck in the bed. I’d have to be stretchered through the doorway. I just feel so let down.

‘Why can’t they give us an explanation of why they don’t want to sell to us? It feels like a punishment. I feel totally depressed and deflated. It has been so distressing for all of us.

‘The logistics of moving would be a nightmare, we would have to bring take so much equipment and supplies with us. 

‘Everyone has worked so hard for two years to get it together, and now we’re suddenly not going ahead with it. It’s been a waste of time.’

Mrs Cowe has said her mother and sister sold their homes in order to help her raise the necessary funds to buy the property, while her cousin sold a considerable amount of cryptocurrency.

The same day of the court decision to evict, the bailiffs drilled through the Cowe’s doors with Sheree unable to move bed-bound Harvey 

Cllr David Gibson, co-chair of Brighton and Hove City Council’s housing committee said it is ‘very sad’ the landlords are pushing ahead with immediate eviction.

‘I’m incredibly disappointed that the court has not exercised its discretion to put a halt on the bailiffs giving more time to agree for the Cowe family to purchase the property with help from the council,’ his statement reads.

‘If they had, this might have enabled them to remain in the home they’ve lived in for the past 25 years. 

‘Mr Cowe has very significant disabilities. We have previously provided major adaptations to the property to enable the family to continue living there.

‘The possession order was served in April. It was suspended for three months. During this time, due to the exceptional circumstances we worked extremely quickly to help put in place an arrangement to enable the family to purchase the property.

‘The council agreed a loan to assist the family with the purchase based on a valuation, and we made our loan offer known to all the parties. 

‘We worked very closely with the family to make sure they had the resources to purchase the property and also make sure that the loan repayments would be affordable for them.’

Cllr Gibson says it is ‘very unusual’ for the council to intervene in this manner, but believes the council’s financial offer was appropriate given the needs of the household. 

‘We made sure everything was in place for the proposed purchase by the Cowe family well before the court hearing on 9 August,’ he continued.

‘The arrangement we put in place to facilitate the family’s purchase would have enabled a quick sale. 

‘It would also have given the landlord a chain-free buyer. Ultimately the legal situation is that this is a private matter between two parties.

‘We have no powers to overturn or appeal against the court order. But I think it’s very sad that the landlord is insisting on pushing ahead with an immediate eviction of a severely disabled man and his family.

‘The family are living in fear of the bailiffs. At this time I appeal to the landlord to agree to reconsider their decision and try to negotiate a sale to the family. 

‘We are now working flat out in line with our statutory duties to find alternative temporary accommodation that is suitable for the family’s needs.’

Councillor Robert Nemeth, who represents the Wish ward in Hove, told SussexLive: ‘It was devastating to hear that eviction is still proposed when it feels like there is still plenty of room to continue discussions.

‘There is now a very practical problem of how Harvey would be removed from his home in compliance with the eviction notice which I hope serves to focus minds on returning to the negotiating table.

‘The idea of him being dragged out on his mattress is simply scandalous and cannot be allowed to happen.’

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