Finding ourselves homeless.

Just before we moved in. Look carefully at the picture of the roof.  There was a silver material laid over the slate and a tar material used to 'repair' the roof.

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Stuff happens in life.  Most of the time you can roll with it and just get on.  Just occasionally there is a show stopper.  A real life changing moment, and that moment happened to us.  When we first looked at the property we thought it was fantastic.  A nice area, not too close to the busy shopping centre, yet not too far.  A drive, big rooms.  Perfect for a big family like us.

Sadly the landlords cosmetic presentation of the property gave way to the cold hard facts that this property was going to be our white whale.  Single pained glass with poorly fitted doors and windows with rotting frames mean temperatures inside the the house barely got above outside temperatures, even with the heating on 24/7.

The boiler was old, inefficient and dangerous.

The cooker was poorly fitted and leaked until spotted by National Grid.

An immersion heater was on 24/7 as the on-off switch was hidden behind a panel.

Before we were under occupied we were having financial problems.  We started a business improve our lives and as Gillian's illness manifested we were unable to work in our usual jobs so self employment was the solution.  Self respect, keeping the work ethic and paying our way in society were goals Gillian and I stood for.  If the business became really successful, who knows, we could even afford to buy our own place.  Then austerity happened.

About 3 months into the tenancy we missed a rent payment.  Now because of this our housing benefit was paid directly to the landlords.  We spoke to them about it and told them of our financial hardship.  We explained we would pay whenever we could.  We spoke to the landlord too who in a gesture of goodwill, told us we could forgo the minor "top up" as he had no issue with us as tenants otherwise.  All parties agreed on this and we got on with our lives.

In time though, the property degraded.  When it rained, water ran down the walls on the inside. The boiler would make loud banging noises and the lack of privacy because there were no curtain rails bothered us.  The cold in the winter was bad, sitting in the front room watching TV involved having a blanket over us.

Austerity and financial strain.

Our customers during this time were the target of austerity measures, so trade slowly and surely trickled down.  Big retailers, feeling the bite started encroaching on our business and the pound shop became the new go to place for our customers.

The letting agent.

because of our financial "arrangement" we were initially reluctant to call the letting agent for assistance.  Eventually we did it, justifying it to ourselves as saving the landlord money long term.  Nothing was done.  No action was taken and the property turned from a dream to a nightmare.

Asking housing standards to help.

Eventually, through desperation we contacted housing standards.  I have to say, looking back at all the interactions I have had with Redbridge Council over the years, this is the best one.  The listened to our issues and eventually made the landlord take action, including insulating the front door.  Fitting locks!  and replacing the windows at the front of the house with a new, double glazed version.  The back of the house was still cold, but we could live just in the new front part.

The new windows.. The front porch was still rotten, but we were happy.

It was at this time that our relationship with the letting agent went downhill..

Part II

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