Some of you may know me and my husband, some of you will have come across this blog by chance. Either way, hello to all of you. This is going to be a fairly angry post today, mainly because my depression has been getting harder to deal with – and this is why.
If you already know us, you’ll probably at least know the beginning of all of this.
We moved into a flat in a nice quiet village, it was exactly the right place for us and we were hoping to settle down there. We were so tired of constantly moving from one rented property to the next.
When we moved in the property wasn’t in an amazing state, but we were promised it would be fixed soon after we moved in. The main issue being a huge damp patch by our front door. After we moved in we discovered that there was also a loose plug socket in the bathroom (of all places), doors being held on by single hinges, and cracks in windows.
So we did what you do when you are renting, we asked for repairs to be done. Then we asked again. And again. And again… you get the picture.
And of course, over time the damp patch spread, as did the smell. It also caused the skirting to fall off.
While all of this was going on we had a gas leak and couldn’t turn the gas off due to the way the meter was installed, when we called out the National Grid we were told that they’d come out before and had asked the landlord to fix the meter so that it was possible to turn off the gas in case of emergencies. So they spoke to the landlord and we asked the letting agents to talk to the landlord about it.
I’ll give you three guesses whether it got fixed.
Then there was another gas leak, again we called out national grid. This time they said they weren’t happy giving the landlord another chance to fix it, and it was too dangerous to be left how it was. So they arranged to come back the next day (we had to call them out just before midnight) to make it safe, and then they would bill the landlord for it. Sounds reasonable right?
So life went on, we’d call to ask when repairs would be done, we’d be told we’d hear back soon, we’d call back to ask why we still hadn’t had a call back.. and on and on.
In September we got married, expecting to be renewing our lease in February we were able to use our savings to pay for the wedding.
Just before the wedding though (after everything was paid for), a damp patch appeared on the wall in the living room. Again we called to get it fixed, again we got no reply. Except this time we were told that the landlord intended to sell the property and would not be extending our lease in February, and also had no intention of fixing anything because of this. Hugely annoyed that he was refusing to fix anything we called environmental health. Who wouldn’t have done the same? Environmental health came out to see us, and while there they discovered the cause of the damp in the living room.
In the bedroom, directly above the living room, was the bedroom window. Now we’d assumed that the bedroom was colder than the rest of the flat due to only being single glazed. It turns out though, that under the bedroom window, and hidden by the radiator, was a hole in the wall. A hole which went straight through to outside and ran the entire length of the window, about 2 inches thick all the way across.
When we’d moved in this hole had been hidden by a piece of wood painted to match the windowsill and glued on, so we were none the wiser until over time, wind and water had loosened the glue causing the wood to fall off, and soaked through the wall under the window until damp had appeared in the living room. Of course, when it rained a couple of days after environmental health came to visit the rain water came through the hole, through the bedroom floor, through the living room ceiling.. and cascaded down the living room wall. On to our bookcase. Which, at the time, had on top of it a one of a kind personal diary written by one of my husband’s long lost relatives during one of the World Wars. The kind of item you could never ever replace.
Luckily, we were in the room at the time (good thing we are night owls) and saw the water before it reached the book.
So of course we contact environmental health and let them know it’s got worse.
Roll on November 9th, a whole 2 months after our wedding. I head off to my weekly physio appointment, and my husband stays at home.
Now picture this, you’ve been out, you come home. Outside your home is an ambulance, your front door is wide open. How terrified do you feel? Turns out my husband had to call 999 after a suicide attempt, why? Because our landlord had turned up (without giving 24 hours notice as set out in our legally binding lease agreement), and had been aggressive and threatening all because we’d called environmental health.
So, with my husband in a real state we go and stay at my parents where we feel safe, leaving with basically only the clothes on our backs.
Two days later we go back to pick up more clothes and do sensible things like clean out the fridge, and set heating on a timer due to the severe cold that was being predicted. While there we hear someone trying to get in.
Let me just go off at a brief tangent, not too long after we’d moved in we were sat in our living room watching a film, when we heard someone trying to force out front door open. Luckily us switching lights on and noisily making our way down the stairs scared them off. We spoke to our letting agents the next day about getting a deadbolt fitted for extra security (we had two locks on our door, but the landlord had lost one of the keys, so we could only actually use one), we didn’t ask the landlord to pay for the deadbolt, we said we would pay for it. However he said no, we were not allowed. Not happy with this, we fitted a chain to the door.
Back to to November the 11th, we’d put the chain on when we got in (as advised by the policeman who came out to us two days previously), which was very lucky. I went down to the front door, and it was the landlord – who had yet again decided that the legally binding lease contract didn’t apply to him. I pointed out that he needed to give us notice, and that we were not going to let him in. Rather than act like a sensible person and leave, the landlord then decided to bang on the door and yell abuse at us, while demanding to be let in. I must point out here, the letting agents had already been told, following the last incident, to remind him of the rules regarding giving us notice.
We called 999, but after 10 minutes they still hadn’t arrived (we later learnt that there was a major incident in the nearest town, and they had to go there) and he was still at the door. Luckily for us a friend was passing, and stopped to ask him what he was doing. Eventually she calmed him down, and called me to the door. By now he was saying that he wanted to see how bad this hole was. So I agreed that, if accompanied by our friend, he could come in. However the second I stepped aside to let him in he started yelling abuse up the stairs at my husband. Funnily enough, I withdrew the offer of him coming in, and once again shut and bolted the door.
I have a question now, if you were us, would you have felt safe staying at the flat at that point?
So we left the flat, and went to stay with my parents. Which was far from ideal. It meant staying in a room which only just had room for us to sleep on the floor, I don’t believe I’ve mentioned before but I suffer from chronic upper back pain, and sleeping on the floor is incredibly bad for my back.
Unfortunately, although we did not feel safe at the flat we could not cut our contract short, and so had to pay till the end of our contract. So we paid for the next 3 months, while also paying out for all the extra costs incurred from not living in our own home. Which was quite a lot when you take into account the fact that the only place we could stay was a couple of counties away and we still had to attend medical appointments in our home county. We also paid for heating to be left on a low heat in the flat while we weren’t there, due to the cold snap (not that he deserved us taking care of the property like that!).
To be continued..
NB: There is a campaign on 38 Degrees to stop landlords acting like my previous landlord – please vote for it here