Somerset family 'homeless at Christmas' after leaving their 'damp and mouldy' flat for a second time

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A young family have said they will be homeless this Christmas after being moved out of their damp and mouldy flat for the second time this year.

Dom Cox, Charlotte Tither and their 14-month-old son have been living in a hotel room for six weeks and don't expect to be able to move into more permanent accommodation until the new year.

It comes as new research from Shelter found that that at least 12,500 people across the South West will be spending Christmas without a home - an increase of 20 per cent in just one year.

Problems with the one-bedroom property Dom and Charlotte rented in Chard, Somerset, were first raised in February after mould started growing on ceilings, up walls, in the bathroom, lounge and bedroom.

The family moved back two weeks later, but the problems returned and the family moved out again in October.

An inspection in February revealed the ceilings were covered in mould. Credit: ITV News

All three now share a one-bed room at a hotel in Bridgwater where they are given expenses for essential supplies.

Returning to the Chard flat to salvage some items, Charlotte said: "It just feels awkward, cold, musky, as you can see (the mould) is all over the walls. That's got blacker over time. It sits on your chest. You can smell it as soon as you come in. It's so bad."

Somerset Council's Environmental health officers issued the housing association landlords Stonewater with an Improvement Notice after finding "extensive damp and mould throughout the property" which was affecting the tenants' health, including that of toddler McKenzie.

Charlotte added: "When he was in here, he was coughing. We had two ambulances out because of it all and he was quite chesty for weeks after. And then we moved him into a hotel and he's absolutely fine."

McKenzie's parents say his health suffered when he was living in the flat.

The council's family intervention service have also told Stonewater their tenants' mental and physical health was being impacted by the length of the hotel stay, and a two-bedroom property was urgently needed.

"You can't really celebrate Christmas," said Charlotte. "We're worried about being in a hotel for even longer but we want a house at the end of it and we will keep fighting until we get it."

A spokesperson for Stonewater said they were responding to all the points raised in the Notice within the timescale and working to resolve things with the family.

"We appreciate they’re looking for a permanent move to another home (which we’ve approved) and we’re doing all we can to help, within the confines of very limited housing options in the area they want to be in.

“We have offered more family-friendly temporary accommodation to the hotel – including a two-bed cottage less than two miles from their current home - which was declined.

“We don’t accept we’ve not responded to the family’s concerns and have been in touch, on average, twice a week for the last 8 weeks."

They added: “Work will be completed next week, including specialist cleaning and treatment of any remaining mould, and we’ll arrange a follow-up independent inspection to confirm everything is up to standard.

"We have offered the family the choice of moving home before Christmas or remaining in the hotel. We’ll continue doing all we can to find them another home in their area of choice but sadly, demand for social housing far outstrips the available supply.”