A woman has spent lockdown self-isolating in a house so damp mushrooms are actually growing in her bathroom.
Stephanie Clark, 52, said her landlord was first told about the problems more than 10 years ago, but they’ve still not been fixed.
And once coronavirus struck, things went from bad to worse as the former supermarket worker was told to spend 12 weeks shielding stuck inside her damp home.
“I’ve been telling Hyde Housing [previously Metropolitan Housing]about the severe mould and damp in my house for more than a decade and nothing has been done,” Stephanie told Mirror Money.
She even took her landlord to court, after new rules came in strengthening tenants’ rights.
Stephanie was awarded £5,000 in compensation in May 2019, but after more than a year the work still hadn’t been done.
And by the time she was offered some repairs, coronavirus meant actually getting them done wasn’t an option for Stephanie, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and recently battled thyroid cancer.
“I’ve been offered the opportunity to move out of my home and into a small flat while repairs are carried out; however, I feel incredibly anxious about going into another property given the current situation as I was told I should be shielding during lockdown,” she said.
Hyde Homes told Mirror Money it was “committed to doing everything required as soon as possible”.
And she’s far from alone.
Figures from housing charity Shelter last year estimated almost three million people – including children – live in homes that have repair issues so serious they represent an ‘immediate risk to a person’s health and safety’ in the UK.
Phillip Scott, repairs solicitor at CEL Solicitors, said: “While it’s important to remember that many landlords – across both the social and private sectors – have been incredibly supportive to tenants during lockdown, there are a handful who have allowed their properties to become uninhabitable.
“But, what is most concerning is that some landlords have tried to use the pandemic as an excuse for refusing works to be carried out.”
He added: “It is particularly worrying for those tenants who are classed as vulnerable and have therefore been ordered to ‘shield’; essentially forcing them to shield their health in what is deemed as an unsafe home to live.”
It’s something Stephanie fears happened to her.
“I completely appreciate that we’re all in unprecedented times and that guidelines have to be followed for works to be done safely, but I also believe that my landlord is relying on Covid-19 as an excuse, as this should’ve all been resolved years ago,” she told Mirror Money.
Scott thinks more needs to be done to make sure repairs are carried out.
“There’s no doubt that more needs to be done to protect tenants in these situations, but landlords should also be held to account for delaying repairs for a significant period of time, allowing the issues to potentially worsen,” he said.
Neal Ackcral, chief property officer at the Hyde Group said: “The safety of our staff and customers is our priority and we continue to follow Government guidelines around only carrying out emergency work for customers who are self-isolating.
“Ms Clark’s home was reported to us in November 2018 and while the works do not present an immediate health and safety risk, we are committed to doing everything required as soon as possible.
“For her own safety, we have asked her to temporarily move to alternative accommodation to enable us to carry out the works and have provided several suitable alternatives which have all been declined.
“As soon as Ms Clark is no longer self-isolating and moves to temporary accommodation, we will start the work immediately.”
Since March 2019, you’ve been able to sue your landlord if they don’t fix damp and mould in your home.
Both private and social renters are covered – provided they don’t have tenancies longer than seven years – and it includes the common areas of buildings as well as your rooms.
And far more than just damp is covered by the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.
Under the new rules, your landlord is in breach of the new law if there are serious defects in any of the following areas:
If you feel your landlord isn’t dealing with the issue in a reasonable time frame, you can take court action – although this should be a last resort.
Shelter advises tenants to make a formal complaint first if you rent privately through a letting agent and you don’t think you’re being listened to.
Council or housing association tenants can make a formal complaint and ask the Housing Ombudsman to investigate further.
Shelter has a full guide to taking legal action against your landlord here, or you can speak to an adviser online here or over the phone from 8am – 8pm on weekdays and 9am – 5pm on weekends by calling 0808 800 4444.
You can also get in touch with Citizen’s Advice, online here or over the phone on 03444 111 444 in England and 03444 77 20 20 in Wales.
You can read Citizen’s Advice guide to taking your landlord to court as tenant here.