Forced to raise baby in damp-ridden home

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Forced to live in a bedroom, a Lochgilphead family with a baby are fighting to have repairs done to their damp-ridden home.

Gary Smith, aged 36 and from the Isle of Seil, his partner Lindsay Preston and six-month-old son Theo moved into the Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA) house from Ayrshire in April this year.

When the house was inspected by ACHA prior to the family moving in, previous damp in the plaster had dried up and no more repairs were deemed necessary for the building, but when they moved in the damp returned two days later, bringing bugs and a list of other problems.

To understand where the damp is coming from, ACHA created a cavity in the side of the building, which is still there and has allowed mice into the house. It also removed an area of plaster, leaving a skirting panel loose with nails left exposed and an electrical socket in a hazardous condition.

To rule out that damp was coming down the chimney, it was covered in September and left, with damp still coming in. Gary reported the wallpaper falling off the wall, revealing damp plaster underneath and now his hall and floors are stripped bare.

Mr Smith said: ‘We’re confined to the bedroom but it has damp too. If the health visitor wants to see the baby or anything else you have to deal with it in the kitchen.’

And there are worries that the lack of safe space is affecting six-month-old Theo.

Mr Smith said: ‘The health visitor wrote a letter saying at this age Theo should be on the floor rolling about. He should be developing, doing things that normal babies do.’

ACHA chief executive Alastair MacGregor said: ‘The property was in a habitable condition when let by the association. Since then issues of dampness have arisen and the association is carrying out investigations and, based on the findings of these investigations, will carry out appropriate remedial action.

‘The association will provide compensation thought our redress policy to Mr Smith for his inconvenience. The association is committed to getting this matter concluded as soon as possible, and for Mr Smith and his family to enjoy the facilities in their new home in the very near future.’

Councillor Sandy Taylor said: ‘I am surprised to learn that ACHA has let a house which is in need of the reported substantial repairs. I understand that all necessary repairs are instructed before a new tenant moves in.’

And Councillor Dougie Philand said: ‘I would hope the housing association would support Mr Smith to overcome what appears to be a situation that’s intolerable and not conducive to safe family living.’

Following Mr Smith filing a complaint, ACHA sent a letter dated October 9, saying that inspection of the cavity in the wall would be carried out and any issues would be resolved by October 10.

The letter also detailed Gary’s compensation as being a maximum redress of £150 with a rent reduction of seven weeks at £13.87, which will be paid when work is completed. No attempt to re-home the family has been offered.

On Wednesday October 31 Mr Smith received word that ACHA would re-plaster the wall cavity.

Mr Smith commented: ‘The problem will still be there, just hidden.’

He continued: ‘Will this go on until Christmas? Probably. So I have to eat my Christmas dinner on my bed. It’s the wee man’s first Christmas and we can’t have a tree, no room for it.’