A Bristol mum-of-four claims Bristol City Council is “refusing to take responsibility” for the “awful state” her council exchange property had been left in and has denied her access to photographic evidence from the initial inspection before the house swap.
Michelle Cowles mutually exchanged her Hartcliffe home on November 21 this year but says she found her new Bedminster abode was in no fit state for her four children after discovering a significant amount of items left inside, which she says also included “illegal substances”. Miss Cowles claims she spent two nights sleeping in her car with her children outside of their school because she did not want to take kids into the “filthy” property.
She claimed: “We were homeless for over a week because the council refused to admit they had any responsibility or liability and did absolutely nothing to help accommodate. They said I signed the house exchange paperwork so it’s my fault – it’s all my responsibility.”
In order to get the house in reasonable condition, she said she reached out to an extreme cleaning company and spent several hours across two days cleaning the property. She claimed: “There were faeces on the floor and walls and even a lawnmower with electrical items and grime just piled up in a corner. It wasn’t a very nice state to leave a property in.”
Miss Cowles told Bristol Live when she first viewed the Marksbury Road house on August 10, she felt it was “very lived in” and in need of decoration – something she was “happy to take on”. She said the home was then inspected by the council on September 8 and she was informed that everything was fine.
She added: “In documents received from the surveyor regarding the Bedminster property there was no mention of any damage, broken window or significant amounts of black mould on doors.” She said before contracts were signed, the surveyor tasked each party within the house exchange process with a list of relevant work that needed to be completed which included photographic proof from each tenant before the homes could be signed off as “acceptable to move into”.
But she said she discovered a list of damages including an exposed hole and poor ventilation inside the kitchen. And when she reached out to the council, she claims she was told the damage had occurred after the initial inspection.
The single mum said the council “refused” her access to pictures the surveyor had taken when she requested to see them. She said: “It’s a substantial amount of damage that does not just happen over a couple of days. I have spent more than £700 trying to sort out this house including storage fees because I haven’t been able to move all our belongings yet.”
Miss Cowles said her front garden is filled with everything she has cleared out from sofas and mattresses to cupboards and broken glass, which she said the council has told her would be moved but could not “guarantee a removal date”. She said: “I grew up in Bedminster and my children’s school is just down the road so I was really excited to move but it has just turned into a nightmare – my family’s Christmas is ruined.”
She said the council now plans to inspect the property again in January but she feels the house needs to be looked at sooner as she is worried about her children’s health and wellbeing. “The council have a duty to ensure the home and garden are safe and secure and this one isn’t,” she added.
A Bristol City Council spokesperson Bristol Live that it is “investigating the situation”.