And Then The Floods Came, or, What Emsy Did Last Week.Posted: May 8, 2013
So, as those of you who follow me on Twitter might be aware, it’s been a bit of a drama-filled couple of weeks. And it doesn’t look to get any less drama-filled any time soon.
A week last Sunday (so, April 28th), J (my husband) and I came back to our flat to find water pouring through all the ceilings. A major water leak had happened in the flat upstairs. The fire brigade were called, the people who lived upstairs came back, we rescued the cats and the more important pieces of electronic equipment and then looked at the damage.
Our carpets had standing water on them. Paint was coming off the walls, the ceilings were getting lovely damp patches and ominous bulges. The flat was, basically, in tatters. Luckily, none of our furniture had any damage. While the water had completely eviscerated the hallway and most of the walls and ceilings, the water had only got about halfway across the bedrooms and the living room, meaning most major pieces of furniture (beds, tables, chairs etc.) had escaped damage.
Later that night, someone from the Housing Association came to look at the leak upstairs. Clearly by this point, there wasn’t much he could do for our flat. The cats went to my parent’s, and we stayed with J’s mum for the night.
I spent all of Monday and Tuesday at the flat. Absolutely nothing happened on Monday. No-one came out, nothing happened. Even our booking at the Holiday Inn that the Housing Association had arranged hadn’t been done properly, so we spent another night at J’s mum’s (by that point, I was too exhausted to care). Tuesday, vans and men arrived to empty our flat and put all our stuff in storage. This was also the arrival of someone from the Housing Association (the first person who hadn’t been a plumber to come and look at my flat). She was completely shocked by what she saw, and realised pretty quickly that the Housing Association really didn’t have a clue of the scale of the damage that had happened. That night we managed to get into the Holiday Inn.
The situation now is that our Housing Association will pay for us to stay in the Holiday Inn until next Monday, 13th May. After that they won’t pay. The work on our flat is expected to last 6 – 8 weeks. Now, our flat had a lot of adaptations done, as J uses a wheelchair. We have a fully adapted kitchen, automatic opening doors and other bits and pieces done so J can get around. While we know there’s no way any temporary accommodation we get offered is going to have that level of adaptation, we need at the very least a property that’s wheelchair accessible. That means a ground floor, or a building with a lift. No steps. The Housing Association have said there is nowhere available owned by either them or other local HAs that would be suitable and is available on such short notice. The long and short of it is, I can genuinely see us leaving the Holiday Inn at 12 noon on Monday, and going straight to the Council to declare ourselves homeless.
J is a wheelchair user, but he also has Asperger’s syndrome. This makes any and all change very stressful for him. I’m supposed to be working. I work freelance, and I haven’t been able to work for the last week because I’ve spent all my time trying to work out where we’re going to live. On Monday I’m supposed to be having a very important meeting involving the young people I work with. I can’t do that if I don’t know where I’m going to be going home to afterwards. I’m also losing a huge amount of money – I don’t work, I don’t earn.
So that’s the situation. As well as the HA and the Council, I’ve also been talking to Social Care, the Law Centre and Shelter. Shelter tells me that landlords have no legal obligation to find alternative accommodation for their tenants while work is carried out. While a lot of private landlords will have to have written into their insurance that they will pay for alternative accommodation for their tenants, that’s a requirement of their mortgage and social landlords do not have to have that. I genuinely do not know where we’re going to live for the next month, at least.
It sucks. A lot.