Elizabeth lives in social housing
This week’s edition of What I Rent is a little different to the norm.
While usually we’re chatting about how the addition of plants and blankets turns a drab rented flat into a home, or marvelling at how much people pay for flats in London, this time we’re going inside a housing situation that’s anything but ideal.
Elizabeth works for a housing association, and rents through a different social housing provider.
She says the flat is in desperate need of repairs, but the group that looks after the building refuses to do this essential work.
There is little space, there are holes in the walls, and Elizabeth claims the flat has an ongoing issue with mice.
All this has had a drastic impact on her mental wellbeing.
As a result, she has been witholding her rent since November, in the hopes that someone will help her.
Hi, Elizabeth. How much do you pay to live here?
My rent is currently £340.52 per month, plus £135 Council Tax per month and my gas and electricity is about £50 per month together. I also pay £85 per year to park my car in the street.
She pays £340 a month in rent for a one-bedroom flat in Glasgow
And what do you get for what you pay?
There is a living-kitchen room, a bathroom and a bedroom, and a large cupboard.
Do you think you have a good deal?
No, the flat is in poor condition. My landlords are reluctant to carry out the necessary repair and improvements.
Talk us through some of the issues with the flat
I do not have enough space to have my appliances in my kitchen. My fridge-freezer is resting on carpet in the designated living space. There is no fire door in the living-kitchen room, which is against regulations.
I have severe mould in my bathroom and my bathroom door does not open fully and hits off the toilet. The suggested solution that they made initially was to put a doorstop to prevent the door from hitting off the toilet. This would have meant that I would have had to turn and walk into my bathroom sideways.
There are holes in the walls, the plasterwork is cracked and in poor condition throughout the flat. Despite a recent repair my windows are not sealed – making the flat non-wind and watertight.
The flat has multiple holes in the walls
There is so little soundproofing in the flat that I can hear my neighbours – it is like living in a commune.
There is also am issue with the ventilation system, which they have offered a proposed solution for, but when I first mentioned the issues with the fans, in particular how noisy they are, I requested that the fan switch be separated from the light switch. The proposed solution for this was to fit a switch on the ceiling that could be turned on and off by a broom-handle.
There is also an ongoing issue with mice in the block. Due to the holes in the walls it is easy for vermin to get in. I contacted the housing association to resolve this and it was only partially done.
I also contacted the council – they were no help either. I read an article online that suggested peppermint oil would deter mice. I tried this by applying peppermint oil to cotton wool, and it worked for a time, but once the scent had evaporated they would return. I decided to apply it to the pipes at the areas I knew they could get in and so far I have no evidence of them. I do still jump at shadows thinking they have returned but I have not seen any droppings since August.
How did you find yourself living here?
The previous property I was living in was being sold, so I registered as homeless. The first property I was offered was a property in Woodlands, which was unsuitable as it had an ongoing cockroach and bedbug infestation. I managed to get this let overturned, not because of the infestations but because the association had not followed the correct letting procedure.
The property I am in now was offered through the same association. I viewed the property while it was still in the void stage – it was going through the repairs after the previous tenant had left.
So, some of the issues I had noticed, I had naively assumed that they would be resolved before I moved in. I had to request light fittings, more sockets, I requested a full replaster – this was denied but they did the worst of the crumbling plaster. Only one of the doors closes correctly and that is for the cupboard. Some of the repairs, such as the exposed beam/incomplete ceiling in the cupboard has been outstanding since I moved in (May 17 2016).
And there are cracks, too
What’s the area like?
I live in the West End of Glasgow. I have lived in West End all my life, previously Kelvingrove.
I think the area is great. Under normal circumstances, there are lots of bars, restaurants, cafes, shops, free museums and I am in-between two lovely public parks – Kelvingrove and The Botanic Gardens. Glasgow University is nearby as is the subway and other transport links.
Does this property feel like home?
It doesn’t. The issues I have with the flat and the unacceptable response from my landlord has caused a deterioration in my physical and mental health. I was hopeful when I moved in and tried to make it feel like home and spent my savings on decorating and furnishing it.
There has been no issue with the decor choices, but I no longer want to invest in a property that the landlord is not prepared to make habitable. I bought pine doors for the flat a few months after I moved in but with the ongoing issues they have not been fitted. They live in my cupboard – I really should sell them.
Due to the pandemic, Elizabeth has to work from this space, too
Do you feel like you have enough space?
No. The flat is supposed to be for two people, but it is too small for me to live here, never mind anyone else.
There is not enough room for a wardrobe. My ‘wardrobe’ is still in the storage boxes from when I moved in. They live on-top of my chests of drawers.
The kitchen area does not have space for my fridge freezer or a tumble dryer. There is no space to safely dry my clothes in. In the summer I can have it in the living-kitchen room behind my couch, but that area is too cold in the winter, so I must put the clothes-horse in the hall, near the radiator. This blocks access to the front door, so not very safe in terms of having a clear exit in an emergency.
I am working from home at present, so my living-kitchen room is also my office. I move furniture around at various times of the day so that I can get past. I was just sliding past but I was covered in bruises, so my sofa is regularly repositioned. When I could have people in, it feels claustrophobic, so I would not invite people in.
Talk us through your experience with your landlords
If I listed all my dealings with my landlord then it would need to be printed in a novel. My landlords have been dismissive, aggressive, antagonistic, evasive, and mostly incompetent.
I have received emails from them complaining that I am sending repetitive emails. If the repairs had been done, I wouldn’t have to send them. They have even threated to prevent me from contacting them.
They recently carried out repairs to the stonework, but it was badly done. I complained and sent photos. I could not attach the photos to one email (their sever rejected it as it was too big) so I sent them per window. The operations manager objected to this.
She said that I was using abusive language, as I said that her and her colleagues are incompetent. They make statements as if they are facts without anything to support it. They use incorrect terminology when doing so. I went to see a lawyer in 2019 and they submitted an architect report that states that may flat is non-wind and watertight and the mould in my bathroom makes it untenantable/uninhabitable.
As the repairs are still outstanding, I have withheld my rent until the repairs are resolved or I am moved to a suitable property. This has caused a catch-22 in that as I have not paid my rent, they have suspended my transfer application, so they will not offer me another property.
My rent is held in a separate account; I send them confirmation of this every month, and it can be transferred as soon as the situation is resolved. They are disinterested. I have not paid my rent to them since November.
The only repairs that have carried out is on the stonework and that is so badly done that they are having to send someone out to do it again.
I have also contact Glasgow City Council, the HSE, Scottish Fire Service and my local MSP. My MSP is willing to write a letter supporting me, so I will request that the GCC, were disinterested from a building and environmental point of view. The SFS said that they did not get involved with legislation and I should not worry as I had the ‘Rolls Royce’ of smoke detectors and was in the lucky position of being within distance of two fire stations.
I contacted a lawyer but as I am working, I do not qualify for Legal Aid. I do not have the money to spend forcing my landlord to make this flat habitable.
I then contacted Living Rent, Scotland’s largest Tenants Union, after they were holding an awareness session in the nearby green space. They have been supporting me in the last few months to ensure my landlord lives up to their responsibilities. This has been a great support for me.
They are also helping me to compose a complaint to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO), as I can’t just send them (SPSO) my paperwork and the responses I’ve received – I must submit it in a report.
There was an issue with mice, but Elizabeth has used peppermint oil to fix this
What impact is your housing situation having on your mental and physical health?
I am currently being treated for depression. I submitted a medical form co-signed by my GP to say that rehousing would improve my physical and mental health.
I emailed this to the operations director in December. I have not received a letter confirming of any points that I have been awarded.
I recently took a survey with our working healthy lives co-ordinator and on the WHO approved test I got a 4, which meant I had to take a further assessment that advised that I have moderate to severe depression and that I should go and see my GP.
I also developed Crohns disease after being in the flat less than a year. This has been exacerbated by the recent events, so I am having to deal with that too.
I have another auto-immune condition which means that if I were to catch Covid-19 it might be worse for me, as I am more susceptible to pneumonia.
I am a private person, and this has been a struggle for me to share.
Let’s take a look around.
The living space, where Elizabeth also works
The fridge creeps out on to the carpet
‘I was hopeful when I moved in and tried to make it feel like home and spent my savings on decorating and furnishing it,’ says Elizabeth
‘I no longer want to invest in a property that the landlord is not prepared to make habitable’
Elizabeth says her mental health has taken a nosedive due to her living situation
She has now stopped paying rent until issues are fixed
Finally, the bathroom
The ceiling doesn’t look particularly appealing
Elizabeth describes this as ‘severe’ mould
She can’t fully open the bathroom door without it hitting the toilet
What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am.
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What I Rent is Metro.co.uk’s weekly series that takes you inside the places people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what’s normal and how much we should be paying.
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