Brenda, a lawyer and lecturer, lives with her two daughters and granddaughter in Manchester. The family found a cottage to rent and she was given an eviction notice after asking for repairs.
If I had been told that I would ever experience anything like this I wouldn’t have believed it. After a bitter battle with my ex-husband over our property in 2011, I was forced to rent with my two daughters aged 27 and 11. It was quite an eye opener. The things some private landlords expect their tenants to put up with are unbelievable.
In August 2012, my eldest daughter, who was expecting a baby, wanted to move to the north of England so we decided to rent in Oldham. The area is one of outstanding beauty and I found a cottage managed by an agent.
The cottage looked a bit neglected but the location was lovely. I knew it needed work but because it only appeared to be cosmetic and because it was going to be our home for the foreseeable future, I didn’t mind. In September the deposit and a month’s rent in advance were paid.
Before moving in, I had the cottage professionally cleaned because of the damp smell.
The cleaner told me that the property was damp throughout and particularly bad in the bedrooms and the lounge. I asked the agent to rectify the problem and it was decided that the walls would be painted with damp-proofing paint.
When the decorator began work, the ceiling fell down in the lounge. A two-week task turned into a six-week project. I had to laugh when the landlord blamed me for the ceiling collapsing because wallpaper had been removed.
A neighbour told me that the previous tenants had moved out because of the damp. I was extremely worried about the effect it would have on my 11-year-old and my daughter’s baby was on its way in the January.
We moved in seven weeks after we were supposed to. By that time, I’d paid for most of the work. When I look back on that period I can’t believe that I didn’t have the guts to walk away from it all. But guts were something I was short on.
My self-confidence had been shattered. When we moved in, tiles fell off the wall, the bathroom walls were wet through on rainy days, wallpaper fell off because of the damp and a window in my daughter’s room was dangerously loose.
It sounds hard to understand but after a few tumultuous years coping with a divorce, living there did bring me peace.
After all I’d been through, it felt a like I was in control again and our friends loved to visit us. We had made the cottage our home and I thought that if I showed willing to look after the property the landlord would recognise we were good tenants.
I even employed a gardener to keep the garden tidy. Workmen were sent in regularly to give quotes but no work was done. In July I wrote a letter stating that if the repairs were not carried out I would do them myself and deduct it from the rent.
Only minor work was carried out.
When it became evident that no more work would be done, my solicitor wrote to the landlord on my behalf: the response was to issue a section 21 eviction notice. We were given two months to leave. We were being evicted because I asked for repairs. I was shocked and felt guilty because I had put our home at risk.
I withdrew our legal action hoping the landlord would reconsider but I was served with court papers. As a lawyer, I worked for a law centre helping other people. I struggled to cope but I had to be strong for my little family. I felt so alone and ashamed.
The agent made some hurtful claims. They said I was in rent arrears and that I was antisocial and as a result, workmen refused to come into the house. I was so upset I couldn’t speak.
I contacted Shelter.
The advisers were so supportive and listened to me. During the conversation, the term revenge eviction was mentioned. What I was going through had a name and revenge evictions had happened to countless others.
A helpline adviser, Kellie, took on my case. She told me that you can fight a section 21 eviction notice if the landlord fails to protect your tenancy deposit. Thankfully they had not protected my deposit.
The judge was impressed with the strong defence that Shelter put forward on my behalf. The judge was very supportive and recognised that I wanted the whole saga to end.
The judge refused to make any demands of me. The only thing she suggested was a Tomlin Order which is an agreement between the landlord and me.
I was not stopped from claiming compensation. The case was dismissed and I had more time to find another house.
I don’t know where I would be if Shelter hadn’t been there. It was an awful time for my family.
My granddaughter Lily Mae, now a toddler, is a constant ray of sunshine always laughing and dancing. She kept me going. I want to thank Shelter for their support and belief in our case and such kindness. Being evicted when you have done nothing wrong is frightening and humiliating but you are not on your own.
Ring Shelter they can help, I promise.
If you are at risk of losing your home call Shelter’s housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444
It is open every day and it is free to call.