A BRAE family say they have lost all confidence in Shetland Islands Council’s housing department after living in a council house infested with mould and fungi for the past 18 months.
Mother of four Stephannie Thomas said that when she alerted the council, they told her to improve her ventilation and keep furniture away from walls to stop them getting damp and mouldy. Thomas this month started a Facebook page to highlight tenants’ problems with their council houses, which is already attracting several comments. The council’s housing department refused to comment on individual cases, but local councillor Andrea Manson said she would not like her children living in such conditions. The family of six moved to Shetland from the isle of Lewis in October 2013 after husband Sean was offered a job as an HGV driver.
Thomas said she first complained about mould on the walls and floor shortly after moving in. She said that in January last year council workers covered up mouldy plasterboard without removing it first, a claim the council has denied. However the 43-year old who works as a cleaner denies council claims that her lifestyle is contributing to the problem. She said that when mould started to reappear this winter she was told it was caused by condensation and she should vent her house more regularly and wash it off with warm water and bleach.
Meanwhile the council installed an extractor fan in the bathroom and is putting one in the kitchen as well as providing a dehumidifier. But Thomas said she felt at a loss with the council and did not know where to go for help. “I’ve never lived in a house before where I’m told keep the furniture away from the walls, open the windows every day and just wash and repaint over any mould,” she said. “I just don’t know where else to go for help as the council don’t actually seem to care what conditions we live in, and we are not the only ones.” Thomas said that since moving in to the council estate in Brae she has thrown out several beds and mattresses, two chests of drawers and two wardrobes as they became covered in mould and started to grow fungi.
This month, the SIC’s housing department sent a leaflet to all tenants advising them about condensation and dampness in their homes. It says that an average family could produce between 15 and 20 litres of moisture per day and reminds people to heat and ventilate their homes properly. In a statement to Shetland News, SIC housing manager Anita Jamieson said: “We are unable to discuss individual housing cases and there is a process in place for any tenants to raise issues directly with the housing service. “Any tenants are welcome to contact us with any concerns that they may have. There is also a complaints procedure if they remain unhappy with our response.”
Councillor Manson said she had “the greatest sympathy” for the family and was committed to help them improve their living conditions. She said she had discussed the case with the housing department and insisted that the council was “genuinely trying to help”. Thomas has meanwhile started a Facebook group to share comments and experiences with other social housing tenants. “It is still in its early stages but I have received a lot of messages and pictures similar to the mould problems I have,” she said.