Anger over huge bills at mouldy flats
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