For years, campaigners have called for action to be taken over the flats at Earlham House and a recent sale of the homes to a new owner appeared to signal a bright new dawn.
But the tenants, some of whom have lived in the complex, off Earlham Road, for almost 30 years, were horrified to receive letters stating that they will soon receive notice to terminate their tenancies.
The letters, sent by Norfolk Property Management on behalf of the new owners, Bellgold Properties Ltd, inform the tenants that they have two months from their next rent day to find a new home before they will be evicted, so the new owners can take possession of the flats.
Tenants are told that, if they wish to leave earlier, then they can give one month’s notice from their rent day.
The letter also advises people to contact Norfolk Property Management, as they may be able to offer alternative accommodation.
Tenants were reluctant to be identified, for fear it could affect their chances of being offered housing elsewhere, but told the Evening News of their anger at the prospect of leaving their homes.
One said: “I have been here for more than 10 years and when I first moved in, it was immaculately maintained. But we have had a succession of owners who have not done so.
“The rumour is that this company are going to carry out the work and then sell the flats, but I think they will still lease them out, but for higher rents.
“The thing is, that I wouldn’t mind that. I’d be prepared to pay a higher rent, but I don’t seem to be being given that option. I’m just being told I have to go by August.”
He said he doubted it was possible to find a similar property with comparable rent anywhere in the city and said if he was evicted the only option for him would be to move in with other family members.
A spokesman for Norfolk Property Management said they were acting on behalf of the new owners, who had asked for tenants to be given notice.
Claire Stephenson, leader of the Green group at Norwich City Council and a ward councillor for Nelson ward, which Earlham House is in, said: “We were shocked, because this wasn’t what we had been expecting. There are about 20 flats there which are empty and I was expecting they would do those first and move the tenants into those while they did the other ones.
“I have been talking to the tenants, and, while some of them don’t mind that they will have to move, there are some of them who have been there for 10, 20 and almost 30 years.
“They are very worried about it. One lady told me that she is having trouble sleeping because of the uncertainty.
“We are having a meeting on Sunday and we are trying to find out what the situation is with their legal rights.”
As of May of this year there were 5,375 people are on the waiting list for city council housing and Miss Stephenson said she feared people might struggle to find property elsewhere in Norwich with rents as low as Earlham House.
The site has been caught up in controversy for more than two years. In 2009 checks carried out by officers at Norwich City Council revealed some of the homes were “excessively cold”.
In 2010, Norwich City Council served improvement notices on 50 of the flats requiring heating and better insulation, including double-glazing.
But the previous landlord, Relay Arch, ignored the order. The company was prosecuted and fined £15,000.
A planning application was approved last month to replace windows and doors, and enclose balconies at the flats, which have no central heating, little insulation and single glazing.
The flats, which at one point were up for sale for £2.35m, ended up in the hands of receivers before the Hackwood Group, based in Hampshire, bought it.
There are 84 flats at Earlham House, About 20 are empty and 20 others are privately owned.