A mother of one has told the Leitrim Observer that she feels Leitrim County Council has “washed its hands” of her and says she has been fighting for three years to have ongoing problems relating to damp, mould and cold resolved in her Council house.
Trish Reddan moved into the house in Aughnasheelin three years ago and said that the problems with mould and damp were evident from the start with black mould starting in the utility room at the rear of the house. This spread to cover the walls and parts of the ceiling.
Ms Reddan, who suffers from respiratory difficulties, said she was particularly worried about the health of her eight year old son who suffers from asthma. She said her doctor had even contacted the Council to highlight the health concerns associated with the damp and mould in the building.
Ms Reddan showed the Leitrim Observer fungi growing from the floor at the door of the bathroom and pointed out how mould had spread into the living room, bathroom and her bedroom with the problem especially prevalent across the gable end of the house.
“It’s not only the damp on the walls, there are mushrooms growing in the bathroom and if I put on the heating within 20 minutes of turning it off the house is freezing. It just doesn’t hold the heat and I can’t afford to run the heating 24 hours a day. Who could?” she said.
Ms Reddan said that she had requested a BER certificate to rate the house’s efficiency from the Council and said she wanted all issues with damp resolved immediately.
“In fairness, the Council did come out and installed a radiator, painted the back room and installed some extractor fans a year ago, but the problems are still occurring. A member of the Council staff came out over two weeks ago and said they would deal with this but they haven’t come back. I’ve been here three years. I pay my rent, why isn’t this being dealt with? I just want fair play.”
Roscommon/South Leitrim Independent TD, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan who came to show the house to the Leitrim Observer said he had been made aware of a number of properties in Counties Roscommon and Leitrim which he believed did not meet the latest building standards for things such as insulation and he said he was particularly concerned over the higher costs in heating such homes.
The Roscommon/South Leitrim Deputy called on all Local Authorities to independently check housing stock to ensure that they are built to the correct specifications set out in planning and building regulations. He said that BER certificates, rating the energy efficiency of all local authority houses, should be made available to Council tenants as they are to renters in private accommodation.
“Our housing stock should meet building, health and safety and planning regulations, and if a survey of a house shows it is not meeting these regulations, it should be retro-fitted and those responsible for such failures should be held accountable,” he argued.
“If you are a private landlord and you don’t meet your obligations you are held accountable, why shouldn’t the local Council, as a landlord, face the same responsibilities?”
He said he would be raising this issue and similar concerns regarding the quality of council housing stock in the Dail.
“The State has paid out good money for local authority houses to be built and the end product should be of a high standard but like many private housing developments across the country we are seeing evidence that there are issues with the construction of local authority stock and someone has to be held accountable where instances of substandard work are identified,” he said.
Council have ‘responded appropriately’
In a statement issued by Leitrim County Council’s Housing Department it was noted “it is not the policy of Leitrim County Council to comment on individual issues relating to local authority tenants. The Council can confirm however, that we consider that we have dealt with and responded appropriately to the individual tenant concerned.”
The Council went on to state that there are BERs available for tenants of Council houses and said the Council are fully compliant with the legislation, with a total of 149 dwellings having had a BER completed to date.
The statement noted that the Council has a dedicated Housing Maintenance Team in place to attend to the management and maintenance of the Council’s Housing Stock.
“All repair requests are fully investigated having regard to the nature of the repair request and are dealt with by order of priority as emergency, urgent or routine requests,” it was pointed out.
“In general, condensation issues are a matter for the tenant. Condensation is mainly caused by not opening windows, especially in bathrooms or by keeping vents in a permanently closed position. It is also caused by drying clothes in rooms with no open window.
“Tenants are advised to ensure that vents are clear to allow air to flow into a room and to avoid generating excessive amounts of steam in the kitchen and bathroom areas as this type of moisture can lead to condensation and mould growth.”
The statement also maintained that “all local authority dwellings are built in accordance with the relevant planning permission and the building regulations in force at the time of construction” and said “they are also subject to a further technical inspection in advance of a newly appointed tenant taking up occupancy of the property.
“All dwellings were built in accordance with the building regulations in place at the time of the construction of the dwelling. ” pointed out the Council, however the Statement acknowledged that “If there is a change in regulations then the Council is not required to retrofit dwellings to comply with current regulations.”