It's been a while since my last post because things have been a bit crazy lately! I did a blog post back in June called Home, Sweet Home... if I'd known back then how quickly things would go wrong, I would have definitely called it something different.
We moved into our flat at the end of May, and by the end of June we were ready to move out. 4 weeks after living there, I went into the wardrobe to grab a dress and realised everything in the bedroom was mouldy. I checked everything in the room, and the furniture, shoes under the bed and shoes on the floor were covered. I'd noticed a week before that the items in the drawers had started to smell funny, but just assumed it was nothing. Turns out they were already riddled with damp.
The first thing we did was call the estate agents and demand an explanation. With experience of living in Heaton before, we knew not to dry clothes on radiators, to ventilate the bathroom after showers, to keep windows open during the day to air the room out etc, so we knew it wasn't us. When the estate agent finally came out, of course the first thing she did was blame us. She went through every living situation possible to find a way to blame us for what she decided was condensation damp, but eventually the only thing she could say was that we were causing it by keeping the bedroom door open during the day to air the room out(?!), and that when we were cooking on the other side of the flat, somehow that moisture and heat was getting through two doors and purposely attacking the furthest corner of the bedroom. Yeah. Right.
So because they refused to accept it was us, they wouldn't listen when we said we wanted to move and we had to bag up 10 black bags worth of clothes from the drawers and wardrobe, and countless more of shoes and bags and pay to get them cleaned ourselves. We were also told the wardrobe that was riddled with mould wouldn't be replaced, so we had to clean that ourselves too. Obviously we were far from happy about that!
Thanks to my interest in law, I learnt a long time ago not to back down, especially when I know I'm not in the wrong so I got straight on the web and looked up everything I possibly could. Condensation damp did sound like the only thing it could be, but we were doing everything right! I would have understood if there was something we could change, but there was literally nothing we were doing that could cause it. Especially to that extent after just 4 weeks. I got in touch with citizen's advice, who then gave me the number for environmental health.
They came out a week later and fitted a meter to measure the humidity in the air, and when she came back to check the results she couldn't believe the levels of moisture in the air and was amazed we'd been living in it. This was now 2 months into our contract, and we'd both noticed it affecting our health more and more. She felt the carpet and confirmed it was actually wet, something the estate agents had just glossed over, and agreed that you could smell the damp the second you walked into the room, and that it was coming from the floorboards - something I'd told the estate agents weeks earlier, but they'd refused to admit it was anything but our fault.
After that there was a lot of back and forth between ringing environmental health, the estate agents and the builder that had done the damp treatment in the flat prior to us moving in. Once they agreed the floorboards would need lifting and more work done, it took them over a month to actually come out and do anything. When I rang to ask what was happening, I was told the woman in the estate agents that deals with our property had been on holiday, then the builder that would organise the work had been on holiday. So while everyone was away enjoying themselves, we were still living in a flat with a damp, mouldy bedroom and absolutely no compensation at all! All our clothes were in the living room, and we were having to bleach furniture weekly because condensation was just settling everywhere so quickly, despite us now leaving the windows open 24/7, buying damp traps and often sleeping in the living room instead.
First they fitted a heat recovery unit, which for some reason just seemed to make the problem worse and racked up our electricity bill. I had questioned why they were fitting that before actually lifting the floorboards to see what the problem was, but just got condescending answers. They then chose to do the floorboards a month later while we were away at London Tattoo Convention, and not once got in touch with us to let us know about the progress. They had told us before we left it'll all be done well before we got back on the Sunday, and if it wasn't for my partner's dad being there we would have never known what we were returning to.
They thought it'd be a case of replacing a few floorboards, but they discovered they were all affected by damp rot, there was soil and dirt underneath the boards and the carpet would have to go because that was also damp riddled. Something I'd been saying for months! At this point we were just ready to leave, but the estate agents told us the work would be done soon, and it would be better to stay than to move to another property and potentially have similar problems. We stupidly listened, and spent the next week sleeping on a mattress in the living room while they continued doing the work and the flat was turned upside down, so I had to take yet more time off work while they sorted everything and still no compensation or reduction in rent.
Once all the work was done it was like a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders, and after weeks of being so stressed to the point that I was just constantly in tears, I started feeling normal again. The first few nights in the bedroom were amazing - I didn't wake up with a headache and unable to breathe. We were getting into bed at night and the duvet and sheets weren't wet, neither was the carpet and there was no overwhelming smell of damp. After the 4 months of hell, it felt like things were finally getting back to normal. Then 6 days (6 DAYS!) after the work that cost the landlord an untold amount of money, it was back. Everything was damp, wet and mouldy again.
The landlord, bless her heart, was so unbelievably sweet. We agreed we'd give it another week and see what they could do, because we both thought it might be a case of the builder completely ripping her off and having no idea what he was doing, especially as he came to assess the damage without even letting her know - which is impressive, considering she lived in the flat upstairs! But a week came and went, and we were no further forward. So we had to move again.
Looking back, I'm really glad we left because I love our new flat, but the amount of time I've had to take off over the past 5 months has crippled me. It's been stress after stress, and trying to keep up with orders while ringing multiple people every day just to try and live in a safe environment has just been an absolute nightmare, nevermind the total upheaval of moving not once, but twice in 6 months. Thankfully we're all settled now and NO MOULD! So I'm finally catching up on everything - including this blog. So fingers crossed things will start finally getting back to normal.
I hope the landlord keeps in touch because it'll be interesting to know if they do ever find out what is wrong. Personally, I think it's a case of a builder being paid thousands and totally botching the job, but also a damp problem that they completely underestimated. Despite us giving all the furniture and everything in the room a deep clean, the landlord getting treatment done on the floor, walls and completely replacing the carpet, it came back in 6 days. I'm not sure if that means it was in the bricks or somewhere else, but it's definitely a much bigger problem than we as tenants should have put up with. And while we're happy in our new home, we got no refund for the extra months rent we paid or any compensation towards any items that were damaged or ruined, or even just money towards cleaning costs. I think the thing that still makes us most mad is the fact the estate agents just spent months blaming us, ignoring our complaints and then being unbelievably condescending when we did speak to them, and still never once admitted it wasn't our fault or even apologised. But you live and learn! At least it was only in the main bedroom so no LMD items were affected, and next time I ever live somewhere with a damp issue that I know I'm not causing, I definitely won't be as understanding. Nobody gets between a girl and her Jeffrey Campbells!