Sonia lives with her ten-year-old daughter. They’ve lived in their current home for two years but will be evicted imminently after complaining about disrepair.
After getting divorced I had to sell my house and I made no profit. My separation had been unbelievably stressful and my ex-husband had left me with massive debts.
I’d been off sick so much with stress and anxiety during our separation, I handed in my notice. I had a little bit of a breakdown.
It was very difficult to find a property. It’s difficult to rent on housing benefits as so few landlords accept it. I was getting panicky. I contacted the council, they told me about my current letting agents who had a house where being on housing benefit wasn’t a problem.
I viewed it and moved in June. It was run-down but I had no idea how cold it would get in the winter.
It wasn’t clear until the autumn that I started to feel the cold. The house only has storage heaters and no insulation so the heat it just goes straight out. The window frames have gaps around them and some days it seems warmer outside than inside the house. The electricity costs £300 a month.
That first winter was freezing but at the same time I was so grateful to have a roof over our head.
I complained to the letting agent. They gave me a £100 discount on my rent through the winter but it was still costing me £300 a month to heat anyway.
I tried telling the agents that if they could just put in some insulation, or sort the windows out, or put a better heating system in, then this could be sorted. But they wouldn’t, they just told me to put more jumpers on.
I got through that winter. The heating problems weren’t noticeable in spring and summer, but when the seasons began to change and the temperature dropped, I contacted the letting agent to report the disrepair and said to them that I really needed the house sorted out. I emailed them links to websites where you could get secondary double glazing, but they didn’t follow it up.
So I rang Environmental Health. I was scared of taking action, especially as Environmental Health warned me that by doing so the landlord could evict me, but I just bear it any longer. They came out and they assessed it as a Category 1 risk because of the cold.
The landlord and letting agent attended and were very defensive. It was ridiculous as the problems were obvious, you can get your fingers in the gaps of the windows. I had to put plastic over them in the winter.
Eventually the landlord sent people to do quotes on installing central heating and new windows, but then in March this year I got the call from the letting agents. They said that I would need to move out while work was being carried out. I told them I had nowhere else to go and the letting agent said, ‘We thought you might say that so we’re going to give you a section 21 eviction notice.’
I was being evicted for complaining.
Although I knew there was a chance that it could happen when I got the eviction notice it made my heart sink.
I rang Shelter. It was comforting having someone there that knows what they’re talking about.
It was really important for me to be told that I had done the right thing by complaining. The adviser did. I needed that validation.
I told my daughter pretty much straight away after I had the eviction notice, I knew she would know that something was wrong, it’s very hard to hide these things.
My daughter is very stressed. She’s worried about our pets. I had to explain that depending on where we move we might not be able to take our cats and she was devastated. I’ve had to be quite harsh, which feels horrible.
I try not be angry and hold grudges but I am really angry with my ex-husband for putting us in this position by leaving me in debt.
I used to have a comfortable life, I earned about £30,000 a year working full time as a centre manager for the probation service. My husband was working too, so we had a very different lifestyle to the one my daughter and I have now.
I used to drive a BMW and now I drive a beat up old banger my nephew gave me. I struggle to buy my daughter new school shoes. I certainly can’t get her the trainers that she wants. I work part-time selling holiday villas in France. It’s a nice job and I enjoy it. I only wish I could live in one of them!
My life has changed completely and I had no control.
Recently I’ve come second when bidding for council properties, so there is hope. We have three more bids before our eviction date and the council have said they hope and think that we will get somewhere before we have to get out of the house.
I know that after the eviction date we have to wait for court, and for the bailiffs, and I’m scared. I don’t want my daughter to witness the bailiffs coming to our door.
Thanks to Shelter’s campaign and hard work from supporters unfair revenge evictions, like the one experienced by Sonia, will soon be illegal. Read more.