‘We are about to be evicted. The stress is unbearable’

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.

Sonia and her daughter

Sonia and her daughter.

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.

Cold

The letting agents suggested that Sonia and her daughter wear more jumpers instead of fixing the insulation.

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.

Cold

The windows are cracked which makes the rooms draughty

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.

Daughter

Sonia’s young daughter is stressed. She worries about what will happen to her pets when they leave this property.

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.

3 thoughts on “‘We are about to be evicted. The stress is unbearable’

  1. Suzanne Ennazus

    It will get worse when they sell off more social housing without using the money to build more. When they sold off lots in the 80s without using the
    money on any social housing or public services, to make our public
    services the worst in Europe, by the late 80s and early 90s they said
    they were broke. That was despite constant VAT increases and other tax
    that affects the poor the most, such as the first government to add tax
    to household bills after they sold off the energy companies.

  2. Wayne Leeming

    I understand your situation entirely. We had a similar thing…draughts making heating impossible, with a central heating system that was failing miserably. My daughter had recently had a kidney transplant and subsequently got put back in hospital 3 times with UTIs – she wasn’t bathing properly as it was SO cold. Her new kidney was scarred in the end, and it’s function reduced. It took our agent FOUR MONTHS to have two windows repaired in the freezing winter, during which time we incurred excessive debt with LPG provider. Then the LPG tank was deemed in breach of Safety Regs and it took agent SEVEN MONTHS to get a new one put in, during which time we completely ran out of gas. I had to sue them in the end for the cost of buying LPG bottles, which we would not have needed had they done their job as quickly as it should have been done. They managed to talk the Tenancy Dispute Service into compensating them for everything they paid out because we left the tank empty on leaving. But it was empty because of their failures, not mine. The private rentals situation in UK is absolutely disgusting.

  3. norto

    The housing crisis should be at the TOP of the Tory agenda. And what is Labour’s position while their erstwhile “leader” ingratiates himself with the anti-semitic people in Europe ?? What DID they do in those 13 wasteful years of office ? What are they doing now ??

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