Hitchin woman with MS takes on housing association over lack of repairs

PUBLISHED: 11:50 18 July 2018

Abby Ellis in her bathroom which has black mould. Picture: DANNY LOO

Abby Ellis in her bathroom which has black mould. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

A Hitchin woman who lives with multiple sclerosis has taken on her housing association over a massive swathe of mould that has got into her bathroom wall and rotted plasterboard inside.

Abby Ellis in her bathroom which has black mould. Picture: DANNY LOOAbby Ellis in her bathroom which has black mould. Picture: DANNY LOO

Abby Ellis has written to Hitchin MP Bim Afolami about her ordeal after becoming exhausted fighting Settle, formerly North Hertfordshire Homes, for “even the most basic repairs”.

“They’ve spent so much money on rebranding as Settle and do little to nothing to maintain their properties,” said Abby.

“I am a vulnerable, disabled tenant with a serious health condition which is being negatively impacted by their negligence. Sadly, I fear I will not be the only such tenant.”

Abby, a Settle tenant for 16 years, has found this ordeal especially difficult because since her multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2012 she has been on a drug called fingolimod, meaning she picks up infections more easily.

Abby Ellis in her bathroom which has black mould. Picture: DANNY LOOAbby Ellis in her bathroom which has black mould. Picture: DANNY LOO

“I have never used my illness as an excuse to not to do anything,” said Abby – who works 30 hours a week in spite of “excruciating nerve pain, tremors, muscle spasms, fatigue, bladder and bowel issues, sensory disturbance in various parts of my body, balance and walking issues”.

She took it upon herself to try to get rid of the mould in her bathroom after Settle told her it was from drying washing indoors, and her responsibility to remove.

A decorator Abby and her fiancé hired to do the job found the mould had penetrated and rotted some of the plasterboard in the wall. He also found the ceiling came away from the walls when pushed against with a scraper.

Abby last week had two Settle assessors visit – only to be told first that the mould was in their view gone, and then that it was her responsibility as a tenant to deal with it in any case.

Abby Ellis in her bathroom which has black mould. Picture: DANNY LOOAbby Ellis in her bathroom which has black mould. Picture: DANNY LOO

Abby felt “truly dumbfounded” at this. She said: “I pay my own rent and council tax, and all I ask is to have a habitable property that is not a further risk to my health when I already have so much to battle.

“I am sure that none of the employees of Settle would want to live in my property with the current state of my bathroom.”

Responding to Abby’s letter, Settle property director Rob Berry said: “On our most recent visit to the customer, we found that the extractor fan needed repairing, so we’ll replace it with a humidity controlled fan which our customer won’t need to manually switch on.

“We can also see the ceiling is not in the best decorative order, so as a gesture of goodwill we’ll repair or replace it to make decoration easier.”

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