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N&N doctor slams letting agent over home with ‘severe’ damp

PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:51 23 October 2020

Dr Sophie Housden (l) with wife Shey and their three children are protesting at the way abbotFox rented them a damp and mould-ridden home. Photo: Archant/Sophie Housden

Dr Sophie Housden (l) with wife Shey and their three children are protesting at the way abbotFox rented them a damp and mould-ridden home. Photo: Archant/Sophie Housden

Archant

A family who moved out of a home with “severe damp” have been told they may have to pay six months rent - despite uncovering a string of problems at the property.

Community union Acorn protested outside abbotFox's office on Upper King Street, Norwich, on Saturday October 17, about the way the family has been treated. Photo: Sophie HousdenCommunity union Acorn protested outside abbotFox's office on Upper King Street, Norwich, on Saturday October 17, about the way the family has been treated. Photo: Sophie Housden

Dr Sophie Housden, a registrar working in A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, moved into the house on St Martins Road with wife Shey, their twins, one, and their son, three, in July.

They took over the tenancy at the start of the month and found parts of the kitchen wall were dark with mould, while the bathroom floor had a dark stain on it. They complained to letting agent abbotFox, sending a list of jobs, and a repairman was sent out.

“We wanted to stay in the property so we did our best to clean it,” Dr Housden, 31, said.

However, within the first few days they complained to abbotFox about mouldy cupboards, a wet wall where a plug socket for the fridge was, no working fire alarms, soiled furniture left in the garden, used sanitary towels in the shed and a “smell of vomit”.

Damp on a wall behind the washing machine at 15 St Martins Road, Norwich. Photo: Sophie HousdenDamp on a wall behind the washing machine at 15 St Martins Road, Norwich. Photo: Sophie Housden

And after moving in permanently in mid-July, they said they also found worms around the kitchen sink and feared the water was not safe to drink.

They said they were told this by a plumber, who was sent out by abbotFox, and they also took a photo of the larvae. The family left the house permanently the following week.

However, abbotFox said, after checking with Anglian Water, that there were no issues with the water and there was no need to leave the home.

“We were only in the property for two nights, but in that time the damp made my asthma so bad I had to start a course of oral steroids,” Dr Housden said.

The Housden family said they had to move out of their rented property but abbotFox are refusing to pay them their rent back. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANThe Housden family said they had to move out of their rented property but abbotFox are refusing to pay them their rent back. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

They contacted Norwich City Council’s private sector housing department, emailing them on July 16: “We are left with a mouldy bathroom, mouldy and unsafe kitchen.”

AbbotFox said they asked contractors to visit the home the day after the tenants first submitted a list of work. They said this work was “completed” by July 17.

However, a week later, when the council’s housing inspector visited, he found a series of problems.

The inspector’s report said there was “significant damp” on the kitchen wall and “severe damp” on the wall between the kitchen and bathroom. He also found ventilation fans were not working and said better insulation was needed.

Mould at the house on St Martins Road, Norwich. Photo: Sophie HousdenMould at the house on St Martins Road, Norwich. Photo: Sophie Housden

He classed the hazards as “category one”, the most serious category, and asked the landlord, a partner at abbotFox called Ivor Newman, to carry out a damp survey and fix extractor fans, amongst other work.

A council spokesman said some work had been done, but added: “We are still investigating the matter and looking into enforcement action in relation to any outstanding works at the property.”

In response, abbotFox described the work recommended by the inspector as “upgrades if the property is to be rented again”.

Dr Housden’s family moved out of the home in mid-July and into an AirBnB for a week, costing them £677, before finding another property to rent.

A dark stain on the bathroom floor which Dr Sophie Housden said was damp. Photo: Sophie HousdenA dark stain on the bathroom floor which Dr Sophie Housden said was damp. Photo: Sophie Housden

They asked abbotFox to cover the cost of their move, pay back their first month’s rent and pay the difference in rent from having to move into a new property.

They said in total their costs were more than £5,000, but abbotFox refused and said they were liable for the full six months contract.

Partner Dean Cooke wrote to the family in September: “We cannot agree with your statement that the works could not be completed in a timely fashion.

“The landlord has been left somewhat confused and placed under a great deal of distress.

Dr Housden took photos of larvae at the property, but abbotFox said a pest controller found no larvae and the water was safe to drink. Photo: Sophie HousdenDr Housden took photos of larvae at the property, but abbotFox said a pest controller found no larvae and the water was safe to drink. Photo: Sophie Housden

“As far as abbotFox are concerned the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement is still valid and you are liable for those terms.

“At this stage the landlord is considering what action to take with regard to rent arrears.”

AbbotFox said a pest control contractor had visited the home and “could not find any larvae in any areas”.

They said Anglian Water told them it was not possible for worms to be in the water supply. They said they had the water privately tested twice on August 6 and no contamination was found.

The Housden Family. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANThe Housden Family. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

They also said they visited with a contractor on August 3 and the only issue they found with the property was a damp patch.

“The reason they have given for leaving the property and breaking their contract was unsanitary drinking water supplied by Anglian Water, which was unfounded,” abbotFox said in a statement.

Members of community union Acorn have taken up the Housdens’ case and protested outside abbotFox’s offices on Upper King Street on Saturday.

They wrote to abbotFox: “Our members have experienced serious mental distress from this, and they are still recovering from the financial repercussions of being forced to move home with three young children.”


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