A mum has found herself unable to move from a home which is in such poor condition the ceiling of her son’s bedroom collapsed and the landlord refuses to pay for all the repairs.
The home has also contributed to her son’s health conditions due to persistent black mould which has beenrepeatedly painted over.
When Kat and her family moved into their two bedroom house in Easton five years ago, she considered herself lucky.
The house was freshly painted and the rent felt reasonable at the time.
She was unaware of the black mould that had been painted over and had no idea the roof was in a desperate state of disrepair.
“At the time it seemed reasonable to go to a two-bedroom house for £895 [a month], it was a nice house and I thought it was fine.
“It was easy to find somewhere then because we were two working people with a child.
“We were quite a desirable family unit, it’s different now because it’s just me,” said Kat.
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Kat has been trying to find alternative accommodation for herself and her son since the ceiling completely caved in and the estate agent who manages the property informed her that the landlord is not going to pay for the repairs.
The black mould has caused her son to have bronchitis
She has been in and out of the property for the last year and her son regularly suffers from bronchitis due to living in properties with black mould since he was born.
Kat had no idea there were issues with the house when she moved in but started to notice the mould not long after and informed the estate agent.
“My son’s always lived in properties with black mould since he was born.
“They paint up the properties in between tenants and it will be alright for six months.
“As soon as the winter comes and it starts getting cold and damp and then the mould starts coming back again.
“It’s there all the time, you just wouldn’t realise it.
“It’s quite common in Victorian properties and I know a lot of people who have had the same problems,” added Kat.
After several years of complaints to a whole series of forever changing property managers, the mould issues were finally resolved in the summer of 2021.
The ceiling collapsed in the baby’s bedroom
Kat’s concerns about the ceiling had initially been raised in 2018 when her son was just a baby.
While her son was sleeping, the first leak came through, just a few months after she had notified the property manager about the ceiling.
“We obviously kicked off because we’d mentioned this [to the property manager] and it could have been avoided.
“I told them; ‘you’re lucky that the split in the ceiling wasn’t over his bed because if it was it could have killed him or injured him because he’s just a baby,” said Kat.
The estate agent arranged to get the ceiling patched up.
In the meantime she swapped bedrooms with her son, not feeling entirely confident that the simple patch up job had resolved the hazard.
Despite the agency’s annual inspections and Kat’s constant complaints about the ceiling, it was only just over a month ago that they realised work would be needed on the roof itself.
In September this year when decorators arrived to repaint the house after extensive work on removing the mould had finally been completed, they noticed the structural issues concerning the roof.
The painters said they would not be able to paint the bedroom where the leak had occurred due to recognising the need for more extensive repairs.
This resulted in Kat and her son having to vacate the property again but this time she was informed that that landlord would not be able to carry out repairs and is also considering selling the house.
Discrimination and extortionate prices in Bristol’s private rented sector
Although she was told to leave the house she had no choice but to move back in because she has found it impossible to find alternative rented accommodation.
“I spoke to the council and they said ‘you’ve got the keys and you are a tenant so you can go back in there whenever you want’”.
“It’s been a nightmare, I can’t find anywhere that’s affordable for me right now.
“The agencies expect a certain salary and expect that you don’t have kids.
“There’s all these rules about what you can’t be, so it’s either I don’t fit the criteria or they’re completely unaffordable.”
“I feel I’m being discriminated against over a situation that’s not my fault and couldn’t be avoided.
“Just because my relationship broke down that’s now put me in a position where I’m not eligible for renting anywhere.
“I feel like society at the moment is not cut out for everybody.
“More people are slipping into poverty who weren’t a few years ago.
“All the energy prices have shot up, all the rent prices have shot up and it’s affecting everybody.
“I felt very much like I was in the middle before whereas now I feel like I’m right at the bottom, just because of the rent prices.
“The way it’s gone up so dramatically, it’s such a big chunk of my money and would push me into poverty 100 percent,” said Kat.
In the last month Kat has made enquiries on more than a hundred properties in and around Easton.
Lack of stability
She has a support network in her local community and her son is settled in his primary school.
Her ability to work depends on the people who live close by being able to help with childcare and she does not have a driving licence.
The only viewing she has been offered was for a flat two miles away.
She would have been happy to move that distance but after viewing the flat in St Pauls she discovered the two-bed advertised was in fact a one bedroom property in a very bad condition.
“It was £1200 a month and they were expecting us to put a sofa in the kitchen.
“It was awful, it wasn’t even in a good condition.
“I just thought, I’m going to be completely skint, living in a one bedroom flat with my son,” said Kat.
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The whole ordeal has left Kat in a state of constant worry and made it almost impossible for her to continue with her life as normal.
The bedroom where the ceiling originally began to collapse three years ago is completely hollow.
The whole ceiling is now gone and all the installation has been ripped out making the house extremely cold.
She was unable to sleep in the first three days of moving back due to the cold and her anxiety about the roof.
“I’ve been depressed and anxious and I worry a lot that maybe it’s worse than they say it is and the rest of it’s going to fall in.
“I can feel the difference just by having the ceiling exposed, it’s much colder.
“I haven’t even seen my heating bills because I have only been back in the property for about a month,” said Kat.
She has to share a bedroom with her son and all the furniture and belongings from what used to be her son’s bedroom is now packed into one room.
She currently works at a nearby pub and has her own business, selling at markets.
Her plans to expand her business and take on extra shifts at the pub have all grinded to a halt as all her energy goes into finding somewhere safe to live with her 5-year old son.
“It’s made everything really difficult and slowed everything down for me.
“I wanted to take on extra shifts at the pub but I can’t do that now.
“I started up my business and I’ve missed a lot of markets because of this.
“I’ve been living out of a suitcase, I can’t organise myself properly, even with simple things, I feel really scattered.
“Half the time I don’t know where my things are because I’ve packed everything into boxes so I’m constantly chasing my tail.
“Now I’ve got this whole thing of trying to find somewhere else to move to on top of all that,” added Kat.
Kat considers herself lucky to have already been getting therapy following a friend’s referral to NHS mental health services a few years ago.
She has suffered with depression and anxiety her entire adult life which she believes is a result of the stress she has suffered from homelessness and housing insecurity.
Before moving to Bristol she rented rooms in London from the age of 17.
She is now 28 and settled in Bristol with her son and is not in a position to uproot her life to another city again.
“I feel like I’m back in the position I was in during my late teens.
“I was sofa surfing for years, basically homeless while working two jobs.
“I thought, I can’t live like this anymore so I moved to Bristol for a better life.
“I moved here because it was cheaper at the time and it was the right thing for me to do because I was struggling in London.
“I was 21 then and it was different. This is my life now.
“I can’t just unplug myself and move to a different part of the country.
“It was fun to do that before but it scares me now, I don’t want to do that and I shouldn’t have to.
“What it boils down to is where is the social housing and why is it not being built?
“There should be social housing available that is close enough,” added Kat.
Upon being told she would no longer be able to live in her current house, Kat has been in contact with the council and registered with Home Choice three weeks ago.
Her application will take six to eight weeks to be processed before she can begin to bid for social housing.
If she is offered temporary housing then it could be anywhere in or around Bristol which could make it impossible for her to continue with her job and business and would force her to move her son to a different school.
She has decided to stay in the property for now because she believes it is her best option, despite the challenges.
A spokesperson for Andrews property group said:
“At Andrews we always prioritise tenant safety.
“ We are in regular contact with both the tenant and the landlord and are working with them both to support a resolution.
“Our team identified a safety issue at this property.
“We acted promptly to have a qualified structural engineer assess the situation, and on their advice worked with both parties to find suitable alternative accommodation.
“Our Bristol based team are additionally supporting the tenant on exploring all further options of accommodation until the property is suitably repaired.”
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