Tenants battled 'extreme mould' for months

Magdalena Meza Mitcher (left) and her partner Ben Skelton had extreme mould in their house

Magdalena Meza Mitcher (left) and her partner Ben Skelton said they suffered health issues as a result of the unresolved damp in the property they were renting - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

A row between a landlord and letting agent left a young couple battling "extreme" mould and damp for five months. 
 
Magdalena Meza Mitcher and Ben Skelton, both 23, moved into a house on Aylsham Road in Norwich at the beginning of September last year. At the time it was managed by agent Pymm & Co on behalf of landlord Ruth Friedman. 
 
The tenants claim issues began at their mid-terraced, three-bedroom home within weeks of moving in.

They noticed "horrible" black mould growing on the walls of their porch and back bedroom, which were also wet to the touch. They reported this to the letting agent on September 26 and a contractor was sent out in mid-October. 
 

Mouldy back bedroom

They said the mould in the back bedroom was particularly severe. Works completed in January, four months into their tenancy, did fix a leak and help resolve the problem - but the mould simply "grew back" in the other affected rooms of the property - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

Mould at the property

Mould at the property which was partly resolved four months into the tenancy after a leak was repaired - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

Damp walls in the tenants' privately-rented property

Damp walls in the tenants' privately-rented property, which was partly resolved by works in January but simply "returned" soon after they were complete - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

Damp walls in the tenants' privately-rented property

Damp walls in the tenants' privately-rented property, which returned even after works were completed in January - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

A spokesperson from Pymm & Co said the reason for the delay was because there were over 40 properties needing repairs due to "freak weather" that weekend and a lack of contractors willing to work during the pandemic. 
 
When Pymm & Co's contractor did assess the scale of the situation - which a spokesperson said revealed a "far from easy repair" -  Ms Friedman rejected the quote as too expensive, opting to send further contractors to find a cheaper alternative, both Pymm and Ms Friedman said.  
 
Ms Meza Mitcher said: "While the letting agent and landlord were having this debate about pricing, our mental health was deteriorating and the mould and damp were getting even more extreme.

"I was absolutely worn out, working two jobs and having to chase everyone involved at the same time. I even sought counselling. 
 
"It was so upsetting. I felt ill because of the condition of the house." 
 
The owner, after negotiations with Pymm & Co, agreed to a 20pc rent reduction for December and January - the months where the mould and damp were most severe. Ms Friedman said she did this "as soon as she understood the seriousness of the tenants' situation and how they were being impacted". 
 
The works were finally carried out in January after a contractor was agreed. They involved repairing a leak in the back bedroom, creating an airflow in the porch, painting the porch walls and removing the damp in the sitting room. 
 
But Ms Meza Mitcher claimed these were "inadequate" fixes and the mould simply returned everywhere but the back bedroom. 
 

The tenants had to throw out multiple pairs of shoes which were left in the mouldy porch

The tenants had to throw out multiple pairs of shoes at the end of last year which became mouldy after being left in the porch - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

Mould on the curtain at the tenants' property

Mould on the curtain at the tenants' property at the end of last year - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

Damp on the walls at the property

Damp on the walls at the property which the tenants reported to Pymm & Co - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher


 
She said painting over the damp in the porch made the situation worse. 

Eventually, the tenants moved out at the end of February, claiming they had "no faith" in either Pymm & Co or the landlord to resolve their increasingly "desperate" situation. 

They also contacted Norwich City Council's environmental health department on November 21.

A council spokesperson said they advised them to work with the landlord to resolve the issues. This was then followed-up in December with a letter.

"Now we are aware of the problem we will be investigating the issue further," they said.
 

Mould under the sink at the property

Mould under the sink at the property which wasn't fixed until a few weeks before the couple moved out in February this year - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

Mould under the sink at the property

Mould under the sink at the property which wasn't fixed until a few weeks before the couple moved out in February this year - Credit: Magdalena Meza Mitcher

According to Ms Friedman, who lives overseas, the wrangle was caused by communication issues and contractors failing to properly identify the root of the problems. 

She said work had now been completed which had removed all of the damp. 

“I am informed by my current agent that the new tenant has not reported any issues since," she added.

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Pymm & Co, meanwhile, said this was "not a straightforward case" and that as the "middle man" they can only act on the landlord's instruction.

They said they had apologised to the tenants but had been forced into a "difficult position".
 

ACORN protesting outside Pymm and Co's office in Norwich

ACORN protesting outside Pymm and Co's office in Norwich - Credit: Sarah Burgess

ACORN Union members protest about landlords outside Pymm & Co estate agents and lettings in Norwich.

ACORN Union members protest about landlords outside Pymm & Co estate agents and lettings in Norwich - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Ms Meza Mitcher and her partner ended up turning to community union Acorn who helped them seek compensation. 
 
Acorn began protesting outside Pymm & Co's office two weeks ago over the ordeal. 

They and the tenants have drawn up a list of demands, such as a formal apology and compensation of £980 for the damages suffered. 
 
Pymm & Co managing director Stuart Monument has, however, been critical of the organisation's actions, which he says at one point saw "15 protestors chanting outside the office in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic". 

But Acorn said the peaceful demonstrations work to "promote fair treatment of tenants and empower communities to take action to improve their lives". 
 

ACORN protesting outside Pymm and Co's office in Norwich

ACORN protesting outside Pymm and Co's office in Norwich - Credit: Sarah Burgess



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