Mum and son ‘homeless’ for Christmas after noise wrangle in rented flat

PUBLISHED: 13:30 16 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:50 16 December 2019

Ben Turner and Gill Wilson with all their letters of complaint. Pic: Archant

Ben Turner and Gill Wilson with all their letters of complaint. Pic: Archant

A mum and son claim they are ‘homeless’ for Christmas following a row over noise in their rented Norwich flat which they describe was so bad it was like ‘Chinese water torture.’

Ben Turner and Gill Wilson. Pic: ArchantBen Turner and Gill Wilson. Pic: Archant

Gill Wilson, 58, a school teacher and son Ben Turner, 29, say they've had to leave the riverside apartment in Sidestrand, Wherry Road, because of the problem and because their landlord has given them a bad reference, they cannot rent another home.

The letting agents and property management firm state they have investigated the complaint and the noise was not due to a structural problem but because the building, 15 years-old. is timber-framed rather than made from concrete - meaning noise travels more.

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Ben Turner and mum Gill Wilson. Pic: ArchantBen Turner and mum Gill Wilson. Pic: Archant

Ms Wilson does not accept this. She said the noise from the flat above started in February, a year after they'd lived there with no problems. She says when the tenants above do anything, it creates vibrations and shaking from the ceiling. She claims they have not been able to sleep and it caused Ben to suffer stress and anxiety, resulting in them moving out in August, staying in hotels and with relatives.

They consulted their GP who urged for the flat to 'be made more habitable' to help Ben but Ms Wilson, a former teacher at Downham Market High School who now tutors privately, says nothing was done to improve matters and as a last resort, she withheld rent as a bargaining tool.

Letting agents Leaders, based in St George's Street, Norwich, say they took 'more than the necessary steps' to investigate the complaint. Because Ms Wilson was in rent arrears, they were unable to provide her with a satisfactory reference.

Gill Wilson and her son lived in the first floor flat in Sidestrand, Wherry Road, Norwich which is above parking and has a floor above. Pic: Gill WilsonGill Wilson and her son lived in the first floor flat in Sidestrand, Wherry Road, Norwich which is above parking and has a floor above. Pic: Gill Wilson

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The mum and son are currently living apart or face Christmas in a Travelodge - and Ms Wilson has already incurred hotel bills of more than £700.

"We're effectively homeless for Christmas," said Ms Wilson. "It's so vindictive to have given us a bad reference. We lived in the flat with no problem from February 13, 2018 until February 6, 2019 when the noise started. It's like the old 17th century Chinese water torture, a constant thud, thud, thud. We can't relax in our own home. We understand living in a communal building you will hear some noise from other people, but this has been completely unacceptable."

"We hear every footstep, every cupboard door and drawer that is opened, a continual thumping on our ceilings. We can't go to sleep until the tenants upstairs have done so but it's not their fault, they are just living their lives."

Ben's GP wrote a letter imploring that 'a review and necessary adjustments to his flat are made in order to make it more habitable and palliate his mental health situation."

Property firm NRM, Norwich Residential Management, Wherry Road, which manages the 15-year-old building, confirmed to Ms Wilson that it showed no signs of movement, stating it believed the problem was 'not structural, and simply general noise which is more noticeable within a timber-framed building compared to a concrete-framed building.'

A spokesperson from letting agents Leaders, issued a statement to this newspaper. "We are confident that Leaders and the landlord of 41, Sidestrand have taken more than the necessary steps to establish the source of the alleged noise. These steps include: multiple site meetings with the building's block management company to establish any structural changes, site meetings with the managing agent and tenants occupying the flat above Ms Wilson's, plus the attendance of two external contractors to evaluate the structure of the property, seeing that it complies with building regulations including standard sound-proofing guidelines.

"One of the contractors attended on three separate occasions, filming one of his visits whist the tenant of the property above was home. Prior to his recording, he asked the tenant to move furniture across the floor, open and close doors and make noises similar to those claimed to be heard by Ms Wilson. This recording confirms that no disruptive noise can be heard."

Michael Cook, MD of lettings for the Leaders Romans Group, said: "We would not wish for any tenant to feel uncomfortable, distressed or unhappy in their rental home. As a result, we have worked hard with Ms Wilson, her landlord and third party contractors to conduct sound tests in an attempt to resolve the issue. The landlord also provided Ms Wilson with the option to terminate her tenancy early, enabling her to find a new home that she would be happier in, however Ms Wilson declined.

"Last week, Ms Wilson voluntarily surrendered the keys to her property whilst in rental arrears. As a result of her arrears, Leaders have not been able to provide a satisfactory reference to her new letting agent."

The landlord declined to comment.

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