Published: 12:46, 19 January 2022
| Updated: 16:43, 19 January 2022
A disabled man has hit out at orders to stop charging his mobility scooter inside a communal electrical cupboard – claiming it will leave him stuck indoors.
Stroke survivor Charles Leney relies on his four-wheeler to access shops and medical appointments near his flat in Admirals Way, Gravesend.
Charles Leney says he has received letters threatening to remove his scooter.
But the 57-year-old has now been told by housing association Optivo to remove his scooter from the block – or risk having it confiscated - due to fears it could pose a fire hazard.
Mr Leney has been diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) – also known as "sticky blood" syndrome – a rare autoimmune disease that causes blot clots and strokes.
"My blood clots and the clots get broken off and pushed up through my blood and up to my brain which causes strokes," he explained.
"This has been happening since 2018 and I've had six now and the last one was by far the largest."
Mr Leney's condition has deteriorated over the last six months and he says his mobility scooter is a lifeline.
"It makes quite a substantial difference because I have difficulty walking now," he said.
"I have to get to the doctors and the shops, etc. Without the scooter I'd be stuck in the house."
Earlier this month Mr Leney received a letter from his housing association Optivo warning him that he risks his scooter being confiscated.
It said: "You are not to store or charge your mobility scooter in the electrical cupboard as this is a serious fire hazard.
"If it is found in the electrical cupboard a tort will be issued and we have the right to remove it.
"The only option available is to store it in the garden under a cover."
But the disabled resident, who has lived in the block for nearly 20 years, says it can be safely stored in the cupboard or near the stairwell without blocking fire exits.
He adds the option proposed also leaves him nowhere to charge the scooter and the battery only lasts three days.
Mr Leney lives on the first floor with no lift and fears leaving it outside puts it at risk of theft. He says his suggestion to purchase a shed as an alternative has not been responded to.
"I have nowhere to charge it," he said. "I tried running a cable down the stairs but I thought that might be dangerous for my neighbours.
"They are saying I'm stealing electricity. But that is the only place I can park my mobility scooter and charge it."
Mr Leney first moved to Kent from his native Scotland in 2005 to take up employment as a construction site manager.
But he has been unable to work for the last four years following his latest medical episodes.
He added: "It just feels like they are putting the shutters up because it is a problem they don't have tenants in the same situation."
A spokeswoman for Optivo said: "It’s extremely important to us that Mr Leney has access to the mobility assistance he requires.
"We understand the benefits that mobility scooters provide and want to support all our residents to retain their independence as much as possible.
"However, the safety of everyone has to be a priority, and it's important that scooters aren't stored where they present a safety risk to the user, other residents, staff and visitors.
She added: "Storage of a mobility scooter in a communal electrical cupboard is not appropriate or safe.
"Our fire safety team rightly identified this risk on a recent inspection of Amazon Court and raised the issue with Mr Leney.
"As a responsible landlord we’ve a legal duty to make sure all communal areas are kept clear of obstructions, so that in the event of a fire there’s a clear route of escape for all residents.
"This is also the requirement of the agents who manage our outside communal areas.
"We're keen to support Mr Leney. Our housing team will be meeting him this week to discuss his housing options, as well as alternative, safer storage for his mobility scooter."