Small Problem #1: My House is a Building Site

So let’s start with our living situation.

My husband and I have lived in our current home for 5 years this month and we love it here. We love the neighbourhood, we love the neighbours and the house is just the right size for us. We moved here when our previous landlady decided she’d rather sell our 1 bedroom garden flat than pay to have our boiler repaired.

We were gutted. We loved that little flat. Even though we frequently woke up to slugs on the kitchen floor – a pleasure on the bare foot as you’d imagine. Even though the glass was cracked in the bay window and the dog once got so excited to see the postie she went clean through it. Even though the only window in the bedroom was an open hatch through to the kitchen so when either of us got up to sneak to the bathroom in the night the light would flood into the bedroom waking both of us up. Not to mention that if we had guests we had to get changed in the bathroom otherwise everyone could see.

She sold the place in less than a week but I’m not new to house hunting, not by a long shot, and we had a lovely 3 bedroom semi-detached house with front and back gardens (for a mere £100 more a month) lined up in a matter of days. We were living the dream!

5 years on, we still love this house, but the landlord is making it very difficult for us to stay here.

Last year he told us that he wanted to convert the old dilapidated garage at the bottom of our large back garden into a flat to rent to someone else. As you can imagine we were a bit unsure of this but he assured us that he’d put up a wall dividing the properties for privacy, we’d still have plenty of garden space, and he’d make sure we still had use of the driveway in the front once he’d made access down the side. He promised that we’d have a temporary fence put up to keep our dogs safe before any work started, and that he’d provide a shed for us to keep all of the stuff we’d been keeping in the garage. He also promised that he’d make any outstanding repairs to our house such as leaky showers, broken guttering, damp on the front exterior wall, and replace the rotten decking in the back garden as it was unsafe.

He also said that it would be a 13 week project. So far it’s been 47 weeks. And it’s been hell.

Work commenced before the fence went up – before the shed was even provided so my husband’s late grandparent’s belongings had been left out in the rain after the garage had been demolished around them. They are irreparably damaged. Trenches were dug to lay the foundations of the new property and then left wide open for weeks while we had no fences to protect our dogs. They were young puppies at the time so when they needed to go for a toilet break they REALLY needed to go so stopping to put their leads on before letting them out caused so many difficulties with their training, but that’s another small problem for another post. I cannot recall the number times the pups slipped their harnesses and I had to go out in the dark and retrieve them from a muddy 4ft trench in my pajamas. Not fun at 1am, in the rain by torchlight.

We then had issues with the contractors. When the fence finally went up, the contractors would open a space so they could access our outside tap and forget to close the fence. We quickly learned we’d have to get out and check the fence before we released the hounds, so to speak, otherwise they’d be up the side of the house and into the street in no time. The contractors would also help themselves to our tools and gardening equipment. They mixed cement in my wheelbarrow, with my shovel and let it set. They also filled my watering can with cement and let that harden too. We mentioned this to the landlord repeatedly and he kept promising to speak to them but it kept happening – we have it on camera. The wheelbarrow was replaced but that was all.

Eventually the work ceased, as they could not continue until the water and electricity boards had hooked the property up to the mains. No progress has been made 9 months. Now, I may seem to a few of you that actually, 9 months of peace from building work might be a bit of a relieve, but picture this. Outside the front of my house, where my lawn used to be, is a mound of soil higher than my kitchen window so we can’t actually see out. This mound of soil washes over the path and pavement every time it rains. We’re in the UK. It rains a lot. I cannot enter my house without treading mud in. On top of the mound is all the rubbish left over from the build – pipes, wiring, fluorescent light tubes, and pallets etc., all just balancing on top of the mound that is slowly eroding. Next to the mound, where my driveway was, is a trench at least 4ft deep, leading into the back garden. No fence or anything stopping local children falling in. Just open, for all kinds of accidents to happen. So far no children have fallen in, but it is slowly filling up with empty beer cans thanks to the local day drinkers.

The fence in back garden is being held up solely by a mound of soil at least 3ft high that, I’m guessing, used to be in the trench. Again, when it rains this washes into my garden and my dogs are constantly covered in it. You know how they like to dig. My decking, what’s left of it – I put my foot through a rotten patch just this weekend – is covered in concrete from the dodgy contractors. I suspect this may be the only thing holding it together at this point.

And finally, the cherry on the top.

We have two showers in our house, one over the bath in the bathroom and one walk in shower in an unfinished en suite which is actually just a laminated section of our bedroom. The bath is very wobbly as its not screwed to the wall properly and as such, the sealant doesn’t stay in place for very long. Water has now run down behind the taps so much over the years that it’s rotted the floor boards and water now pours through the ceiling into the lounge. And I mean POURS. A crack in the ceiling had been forming since we moved in and we’ve mentioned this to the landlord on numerous occasions. He visited us on New Year’s day to check that everything was okay with his new property (I know, the irony) and we showed him it was still pouring through even though we’d got straight back out as soon as it started. He said he’d have someone with us to look at it in the next week. You guessed it, we’re still waiting.

We’ve been using the walk in shower in the bedroom, we’re lucky to have a second shower, however since the beginning of February this one has been leaking through the spot lights in the kitchen ceiling. He’s aware of this also and yet keeps standing us up when he agrees times to come and take a look. It now doesn’t matter where we shower, we’re either at risk of falling through the ceiling or shorting the electrics.

So that’s Small Problem #1.