Anger over huge bills at mouldy flats

Southport Visiter - - Front Page - BY JAMIE LOPEZ jamie.lopez@reach­plc.com @jamie_lopez1

PEN­SION­ERS liv­ing in mould-rid­den flats say they are be­ing forced to go cold or face “mas­sive” heat­ing bills be­cause of fail­ures by land­lords.

Res­i­dents of the block of flats in Janes Brook Road, South­port, say heat­ing can cost hun­dreds of pounds a month – with some oil-filled ra­di­a­tors al­legedly cost­ing £1 an hour to run.

They say that the prob­lems are be­ing caused by a com­bi­na­tion of the ex­pen­sive ra­di­a­tors – in­stalled by the build­ing’s pre­vi­ous owner – along with poor in­su­la­tion and badly fit­ted dou­ble glaz­ing.

The prop­er­ties are now owned by Places for Peo­ple which took over from Stonewa­ter last De­cem­ber and the an­gry res­i­dents, some of whom have lived there for decades, are de­mand­ing ac­tion is taken.

One woman said she had mould grow­ing in cup­boards, while a man said he had to “co­coon” him­self to avoid us­ing the heat­ing.

There have also been com­plaints that the con­trol pan­els were so poorly placed that those with mo­bil­ity is­sues can­not use them.

Lorna Davis, 71, said that heat­ing her flat was so ex­pen­sive that she had to turn her ra­di­a­tors com­pletely off for more than 18 months.

She said: “We’ve been ask­ing for ac­tion for the last few years on this and enough is enough. The heaters are sim­ply so costly we can’t af­ford to run them suf­fi­ciently to heat up the flats with­out rack­ing up mas­sive bills, which means a stark choice of go­ing cold or go­ing poor.

“The win­ter be­fore last, my bill for the quar­ter was over £600 just to keep the flat warm, I sim­ply can’t af­ford that or face an­other win­ter of go­ing cold in­stead. We are mainly el­derly res­i­dents here and I feel con­di­tions like this are dan­ger­ous. “

Cyril Lee, 84, has lived in the flats for 24 years and said that his heat­ing was off most of the time be­cause of the prob­lems.

He said: “I was a butcher for 50 years so I know what I mean when I say it can get as cold as a butcher’s store­room in there dur­ing win­ter. It’s ei­ther that or pay bills that we sim­ply can’t af­ford.

“I’m lucky in one way I sup­pose as due to my job I’m used to freezer rooms – oth­ers aren’t and we shouldn’t have to live in them.”

Phil McBride, who at 63 is one of the younger res­i­dents, said the dou­ble glaz­ing was so poorly fit­ted that he could see his blinds blow­ing in the wind even when win­dows are closed.

He said: “The wind chill means that you have to choose be­tween run­ning the ra­di­a­tors and watch­ing your money fly out with the draft, or sim­ply go­ing cold.

“My bill for one win­ter quar­ter was well over £500 to keep warm, so last win­ter I had to run them much lower and go cold. Even then it was still over £300.

“I’ve now bought halo­gen heaters and a foot warmer and I ba­si­cally co­coon my­self in throws when I get home.”

Cllr Ja­nis Black­burne, who rep­re­sents Kew, is call­ing for Peo­ple for Places to ur­gently ad­dress the prob­lems.

She said: “I’ve been pur­su­ing this for a month now with the new own­ers and they are talk­ing, but lit­tle else is hap­pen­ing at present and re­ally, they need to up their game. “

“They’ve told me that the en­ergy per­for­mance cer­tifi­cate for the block is from 2011 and so that might be an is­sue but that the heaters them­selves should be fine.

“Quite clearly though from what a num­ber of ten­ants are say­ing, there are prob­lems with the flats some­where be­cause of the sky-high costs of heat­ing them.

“What­ever is needs rec­ti­fy­ing.

“Res­i­dents feel they have been fobbed off time and again over the years and there can­not be a rep­e­ti­tion of that. The own­ers need to act, there are prob­lems in their prop­er­ties and my con­cern is that el­derly ten­ants are po­ten­tially at risk.”

A spokesman for Places for Peo­ple said: “We are sorry that caus­ing it our cus­tomers have con­cerns about the heat­ing sys­tem at Janes Brook Road.

“Places for Peo­ple took over the man­age­ment and own­er­ship of the prop­er­ties in De­cem­ber 2017 and de­vel­oped a long term in­vest­ment plan for the neigh­bour­hood, based on data re­gard­ing the con­di­tion of the homes pro­vided by the pre­vi­ous land­lord.

“Since Cllr Black­burne raised this is­sue we have been work­ing closely with the cus­tomers and Cllr Black­burne and we last met with them on Fri­day, Novem­ber 2.

“We will carry out a full as­sess­ment of the prop­er­ties to un­der­stand what is re­quired in­clud­ing a re­view of the heat­ing sys­tem, in­su­la­tion and dou­ble glaz­ing as well the over­all prop­erty con­di­tion. We will also sup­port cus­tomers to en­sure that they are able to op­er­ate the heat­ing sys­tem ef­fec­tively.

“We will con­tinue to keep Cllr Black­burne and the cus­tomers in­formed of progress and we would en­cour­age cus­tomers to con­tact us di­rectly with any con­cerns.”

Cllr Black­burne, third from right with an­gry res­i­dent’s at the flats

Phil McBride, left, is pay­ing hun­dreds of pounds for heat­ing at the Places for Peo­ple flats; mould in one of the flats, below

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