A man claims Havering Council has refused to hand back two of his properties, leaving him in financial limbo.

Former office supply boss Alan Pomfret, 70, leased two houses to the authority ten years ago after selling up his business.

Because he has no private pension, he now wants to sell the properties, pay off the mortgages and secure his future.

But he says he has been battling with the council’s housing department for more than two years trying to get his hands back on his properties.

He said last night: “This is an absolute scandal, I never dreamed this would happen.

"The houses are supposed to be my pension but they will not give them back to me so I’m unable to sell them.

“My wife and I still have substantial mortgages on them and with interest rates so high, this so-called investment has turned into a complete and absolute nightmare. 

"My mortgage term runs out in five years and I’ll be sunk without a trace if I don’t get them back soon."

The properties in question are two three-bed houses in Harold Hill.

The Pomfrets gave notice on them two years ago and informed the council they wanted to sell them. In theory, they should have been given their properties back within three months as per the original contract.

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A council procurement officer wrote in a February 2022 letter regarding one of the properties: "We will take every step possible in order to arrange for the handback of the property on or before 13th May 2022.  However there may be a delay due to the limited supply of properties that we have available to move existing tenants into."

Retired businessman Alan accused the council of "stalling and stalling".

He added: "It’s just one excuse after another and this has been going on for two years.

“It begs the question as to how many other people like myself are in the same position within Havering and also in the UK?

“In many ways, it feels a bit similar to the Post Office scandal where the little guy is up against a giant corporation who are backed by layers of bureaucracy and a big legal team.

“We can't get any answers out of the council apart from the fact that they have tenants in the properties which is pretty obvious. It feels like they are just trying to push their problems onto us.”

The Pomfrets have not had a rent rise in more than seven years because they wanted to keep the option of leaving the scheme when they wanted.

They have now taken legal advice and have been told it could take up to 18 months to get their properties back through the courts incurring thousands of pounds worth of costs.

"The irony is having lived in the borough of Havering for most of our lives, we thought dealing with the council would be a safe pension vehicle for us," Alan said. 

"How wrong can you be?"

The council is facing a £31million budget gap by the end of the financial year in March, with the vast majority of the overspend being on social care and housing the homeless.

A spokesperson for Havering Council said: “We sympathise with Mr Pomfret and share his frustration at this situation. Private owners like him deciding to leave the private sector leasing scheme adds further pressure to the housing crisis, where demand for homes is far outstripping the current supply across the UK.

 “To date, we have not been able to place Mr Pomfret’s tenants in alternative accommodation but we will continue to work with him and the tenants at his properties to reach a satisfactory outcome for all involved as quickly as possible.”