Nine years of rental hell
The Dundalk woman who lived in a cold, damp, rodent infested rented house which featured in the Prime Time investigates special on rental properties has told The Argus of her 'living nightmare'.
Margaret Hoey says that as a result of living in the house, she still washes dishes three or four times when she takes them out of the cupboard as the habit became so ingrained due to an investigation of rodents in the rented cottage she lived in for nine years.
'I found the house, which was just outside the town, on Daft.ie, and moved in there in mid-December 2008,' she recalls.
'It's a 100 year old cottage and I fell in love with it. It was just like living in the middle of the countryside, yet close to town, so I really liked the location and that's what I was paying for.'
She admits that the problems didn't become apparent to her for the first six months. 'We were busy getting settled in and then I noticed that work needed to be done, and got onto the landlord.'
'The first thing I noticed was that the central heating wasn't working and it took a year and a half for the landlord to do something about it, and it still didn't work properly.'
She said that as time went on and repeated requests for work to be carried out were ignored, conditions in the house got worse and worse.
'There was constant dampness, it was cold. There was mould on every wall. It was a living nightmare.'
She took photos and videos of appalling conditions of the house which were broadcast during last Thursday's Prime Time special 'Nightmare to Let'.
Water poured in a gaping hole in the bathroom ceiling, over electric wires, and mice ran along the kitchen counter tops.
'The only reason I stayed was that the landlord always promised that he would do the works, that he would do whatever was needed, but it just kept getting worse and worse.'
Margaret says she spent a fortune of 'pre-pay' electricity as she had to have electric heaters in every room.
'I was spending €10 a day on running the heaters.'
Even so, the smell of damp got into her clothing and bedding. 'I found three slugs in my bed once and from then on slept on a bed settee in another room, but the quilts were always damp.'
'Dampness covered everything,' she recalls. 'It was sitting there like a blanket.'
She says that when she was forced to go into the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, 'that's when the can of worms opened'.
'An engineer from Louth County Council inspected the house and found 62 major issues with it,' she recalls.
However, her payments were still processed and she reckons that €76,600 was paid in rent over the period by herself and the other tenant.
'When I moved in, the rent was €500 per month. It went up to €700, then €750 at one stage and back down to €700.'
'Louth County Council kept paying rent through HAP even though they need the condition of the premises.'
The matter eventually went before the Residency Tenancy Board, who made an award of €6,000 in favour of the tenants last August.
However, she continued to live in the house until January 17th 2017, moving out after giving a month's notice.
Since then, Margaret has been housed by Louth County Council, having been on the housing list for ten years.
She says that she fears her health has been damaged by living in the house.
'There was dampness and mould everywhere, and I don't know what I was breathing into my lung. It was a living nightmare.'