‘We try to budget for bus fares but 8 times out of 10 we walk’
‘Kenzie’s been complaining since we set off that his foot hurts’
The family have lived in their privately rented home for three years, the two youngest children have known only this house. Natasha and Dan have to keep moving items away from outside walls, blocking rooms and passageways. In April 2017, after three years of asking for the problem to be addressed, the landlord tasked a workman to plaster over the endemic damp.
‘Some mornings you open your eyes and think, oh, I’ve woken up here again’
Natasha and Dan share their bedroom with Kyle, 3, and Kali, 1, as the back bedroom of their home has too much mould and damp. Moisture drips from the ceiling of the shared room.
In 2015, MPs voted against an amendment to the Housing and Planning bill to require landlords to ensure their properties “are fit for human habitation”. At least 71 of those MPs are landlords.
I grew up in a council housing estate. We didn’t have running hot water until I was 14 (I am now 24). The mains-plug sockets were peeling away from some of the walls; one of them dangled 2cm away from the wall in the hallway. The house was built on ‘concrete cancer’, where materials from mines had been dumped. Putting concrete and then a prefabricated house on top of this meant that there was a chemical reaction between the mine-waste and the concrete, leading to the foundations rotting away. One side of the house sloped right, and the other left, with it rising in the middle. This made oil pool to one side of the frying pan in the kitchen, and nothing ever cooked evenly. I remember frequently running out of ‘leccy’ and having to plead with the corner shop staff to let us have a day on tick. In the winter, the net curtains used to freeze like a sheet of ice against our single-pane windows. Me and my three siblings took it in (fought after) turns to ‘hog’ the gas fire in the front room; the central heating didn’t work so all 6 of our family spent as much time in this one room as possible. Shouts would ring out as soon as my mum opened a door to brave the kitchen to get us dinner, letting what felt like a blizzard whirl by. Everything we owned was second-hand, and though this is often the phrase which makes other more fortunate people wince and feel sorry for us, we didn’t care about it much at all. Stuff was stuff, new or old, as long as it was functional. We would rather have been warm, and fed, and rested and free of stress than to have a like-new house. But I suppose some people grow up never having to see the two as a trade-off.
We complained time and time again to the council, and we never got replies.