'The smell is always there': Newcastle student's battle with landlord over mould-infested flat

A Newcastle student has told ITV News Tyne Tees she is now looking for new accommodation after living for months in a mould-infested flat in the city.

Hannah Turney moved into the flat in Heaton in August and claims, shortly after she moved in, there were problems with the boiler and then with the windows and condensation.

She claims she verbally reported the issues several times over the last five months, but nothing has been done to deal with the problem.

She said her letting agents, Prem Lets, came to the property to view the mould in September, but took no action.

She said: "She came round and told me to bleach it and leave my window open in the middle of winter and keep the heating on, which obviously isn’t the best advice as I’d tried to bleach it two times already and it came back the next day.

"You kind of wake up, you look at it and you don’t really want to be in your bedroom. It’s not a relaxing place to be and then when you’re feeling pretty ill all the time, as well, it’s hard to get any energy to go anywhere or do anything."

She added: "The smell and everything is always there. It's just not a nice way to kind of wake up and start your day."

Hannah Turney claims she verbally reported the issues several times over the last five months, but nothing has been done. Credit: ITV News

Miss Turney said things got so bad that by Christmas she sent a written complaint into the letting agent.

Prem Lets told ITV News the tenant only first reported the mould issue on the 20 December, that she refused entry to a contractor the next day to come and address the problem, and had signed a new 12 month contract in November without raising any complaints about the property.

Miss Turney responded by saying: "It wasn’t actually me who signed the contract, it was my roommate. She doesn’t really have the issues that I have with the mould in her room.

"The boiler has constantly been breaking. Every time me or my flat mate have emailed, we’ve emailed about the windows, we respond. The contractor came and he didn’t give us the chance to get to the door before he’d already gone. It’s not acceptable that they are telling us that we didn’t report this, when they’ve come and done flat checks and even if we hadn’t, they’ve seen it for themselves."

Mould next to bed Credit: ITV News

In a statement, Marie Rutherford of Prem Lets, told ITV News: "Issues with the tenant's boiler were raised and rectified in August 2022. Tenants first reported concerns over mould in their property on 20th December 2022, we attended the property on this date and identified areas of condensation.

"We made arrangements for contractors to attend the following day, however they were refused entry by tenants. Tenants have since delayed contractors attending the property on multiple occasions to allow us to address this issue.

"We have cooperated with Newcastle City Council and will continue to work with them and the tenants to resolve any issues they may have. The landlord has agreed to release tenants from their current tenancy immediately."

Following an inspection of the property on 5 January, Environmental Health, recommended the agents repair the boiler and windows to help eradicate or substantially reduce the issue.

Newcastle City Council said it has dealt with more than a thousand reports of damp and mould in properties around the city in the last three years and added that the cost of living crisis is "exacerbating the problem", because people can no longer afford to heat their homes.

Mould on bedroom wall Credit: ITV News

Gwen Smith, from the council, told ITV News: "We’ve seen a real increase in the number of complaints around damp and mould in properties over the last couple of months. People can’t afford to put the heating on, they don’t open windows, they can’t use tumble driers anymore, but I’d also say that all tenants, please get in touch with us.

"If you think the landlord isn’t doing repairs to a property we can help. We can assist. We can make the landlord do works that are required, so please do get in touch."

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