A family in Exmouth whose children were bullied at school because their damp and mouldy bedrooms made their uniforms smell have been helped by the district council and landlord.
Becca Gliddon eastdevonnews.co.uk
East Devon District Council (EDDC) said it decided to lift the lid on the ‘heart-wrenching story’ of the privately-renting family in a bid to encourage tenants to seek support and ‘not suffer in silence’.
The family – from an unnamed area of Exmouth – were left living in a damp home, with black mould growing up their bedroom walls and ceilings.
The council said condensation had begun running down the walls ‘with an overwhelming smell of damp infesting the home’.
The bathroom wall was covered in black mould. Photo: EDDC.
The children had only one set of school uniforms, which were washed every day – but the youngsters were bullied by other pupils when the clothes failed to properly dry because the family could not afford to use the tumble drier.
Instead, the kids’ clothes were dried in front of a heater in the living room and started smelling when the heating stopped working properly
EDDC said the family’s ‘willing landlord’ made changes to the property once he was made aware of the damp.
After the family contacted the council, it was found they were eligible for financial help to cope with the cost-of-living crisis – finding funding for extra school uniform, food and white goods.
The investigating officer at EDDC said: “We learnt the resident had just one set of school uniforms for their children, which was being washed every day.
“Although they had a tumble dryer the family couldn’t afford to use it so were drying their clothes on a heater in the living room.
“Not only this, but they also couldn’t get the heating to work properly.”
They added: “We gave general advice about condensation and heating, and referred the resident to the resilience team who found that they were eligible for money towards school uniforms, white goods and food.”
Exeter Community Energy gave practical advice on energy efficiency so the tenant could save money on their energy bills, EDDC said.
The investigating officer said: “As well as this, we recommended the tenant wrote to their landlord so our team could arrange to do a full inspection of the property with the landlord – this resulted in the installation of an electric extractor fan in the bathroom and kitchen to remove moisture, reducing condensation.
“The landlord altered the worktops in the kitchen, so the tumble dryer could be installed and used properly also and showed the tenant how to use the heating.
“All the area affected by mould were also cleaned and re-painted.”
The district council said the damp and mould season has coincided with scores of residents struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, and concerns over how to afford to heat their homes.
EDDC urged tenants to inform landlords if they are struggling with home repairs in rented properties.
The council said its environmental health private sector housing team receives at least one call a week from tenants reporting damp and mould problems.
Councillor Dan Ledger, EDDC portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, said: “It was really nice to know our officers were able to help this family in need who didn’t know what to do to fix the issue in their home.
“In this case, we worked with a very willing landlord who wanted to help as much as we did, once they knew there was a problem at the property.
“A big part of officers’ jobs is to help tenants communicate issues when they either don’t know how to themselves, are embarrassed or are worried, so need support contacting their landlords.”
Cllr Ledger added: “We would like to encourage anyone who is having damp or mould issues, or any other repair problems, to contact their landlord or letting agent. And if they still need help, your council is here to help you.”
An spokesperson for the council said: “One of EDDC’s many roles is to help residents struggling with the cost-of-living – which is why its financial resilience team plays such a crucial role in assessing and offering advice, as well as direct support to make sure residents can get the best help available – that they would otherwise not know about.
“The team works with various partner organisations and are experts in knowing who can help when and referring residents in need.”