Revealed: How council knew about problems at Thetford horror flats for six years before moving tenants out
PUBLISHED: 18:15 15 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:58 18 February 2019
Families living in a notorious block of flats have finally been moved into emergency accommodation - after having to endure years of complaints and problems.
Health warnings, legal threats and a council’s failure to enforce adequate improvements at the flats in Glebe Close, Thetford, for six years can be revealed today.
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request show:
• Children’s services visited the block of flats in 2013 and raised concerns over the potential negative effects to the health of one tenant’s children.
• One flat was deemed to pose a “real or immediate danger” of fire to the occupier due to faulty electrics in 2014.
• Council officials believed the threat of legal action from a homelessness charity forced the landlord to begin repairs in 2014.
• Three tenants were given eviction notices in 2012, 2014, and 2015 after they complained to the council about the conditions in the flats.
• The landlord moved new tenants into one of the flats nearly two years after previous tenants complained about the conditions having not fully completed repair works.
On Friday, February 8, tenants in three of the four flats were moved into emergency accommodation by Breckland District Council (BDC) after an emergency prohibition order (EPO) was served preventing their use for residential accommodation with immediate effect.
An EPO can only be issued if conditions pose an imminent risk of serious harm to the health and safety of tenants, and was served following an inspection by the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and the council’s building control department.
BDC said: “Officers from the council have been working with the landlord to improve the property and the external areas have recently been cleared by the landlord following an inspection.
“The landlord has been informed that he is required to make improvements in order to meet regulations and the council has offered all the tenants alternative nearby accommodation in the meantime.”
BDC added because the flats are privately-rented the council is not involved in new tenancy agreements and added it has worked with the landlord to address complaints.
It added a health and safety inspection took place on January 22, but said the EPO was not directly a result of that inspection.
But documents show that officials from social services had initially raised concerns over the impact of black mould and the cold at the flats on children living in Glebe Close in 2013.
Despite this, a family with five children moved into the flats in September last year and complained about the flat earlier this year.
It can also be revealed the housing charity Shelter threatened legal action in 2014 following the discovery that fuses had been removed from a fuse board and of other faulty electrics.
According to the documents it took this threat of legal action to convince the landlord to take action.
They state: “It would appear Shelter sent [redacted] a letter explaining they had enough evidence for court proceedings, which has caused the turn around.”
Complaints from tenants to the private housing team at BDC all included similar issues of cold, damp, black mould, and heaters not working properly.
Other reported issues included rotten window frames, smashed doors, and a dead cat being found near the garages.
Despite the complaints about cold and black mould, the council failed to enforce full improvement work on the block of flats.
In 2013 following a complaint from a tenant, the landlord and the council agreed to “improve the thermal efficiency” of the block through subsidised improvements to the externals of the building including cladding and insulation.
However, in January 2015, in correspondence with the landlord the council said it understood the work had not taken place due to it not being “practical”.
The tenant living in the flat at the time was reportedly using only an electrical fan heater to keep the flat warm.
Two years later a letter was sent to BDC from the NHS in support of a housing move for one of the tenants.
It listed the same issues as previous complaints including rotten window frames, damp, and a lack of lighting in the stairwell.
BDC said: “If we receive a complaint from a local tenant, we will in the first instance work closely with local landlords to request that they make the necessary improvements.
“If new issues arise and a new complaint is received, we will continue to work with landlords to address these too, and take formal action if this becomes necessary.”
The landlord, Rick Player of Players Properties, said it was “none of your business” when asked about potential improvements, and did not respond to any other questions this newspaper asked.
READ MORE: ‘My children are always coughing’ - Council knew of conditions in horror flats before family moved in.
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