HAP tenant: ‘I had to move bed away from wall as the sheets were soaked’

Triona Coates calls for Cavan County Council to inspect home with mould, mildew and damp

Triona Coates outside the home.  Debris from  the roof has fallen on the ground. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

Triona Coates outside the home. Debris from the roof has fallen on the ground. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

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The stone farmhouse rented by Triona Coates in rural Co Cavan has a musty, damp odour.

“I would apologise, but I’ve stopped feeling this is my fault. I hate it. When we first moved in, in August 2018, it seemed okay. But the landlord had just given it a lick of paint before.”

She shows the main bedroom where her nine-year-old son now sleeps in a bed beside hers. The damp was too bad in his room to breathe, she says.

Triona Coates in her living area which has mould, damp and wallpaper falling off the walls. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan
Triona Coates in her living area which has mould, damp and wallpaper falling off the walls. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

In her room, damp extends about a foot above the skirting boards.

“I had to move his bed away from the wall because the sheets were soaked. No matter how many times I wash the walls, it comes back. I put this anti-mould spray on it, but I’ve given up.”

A window frame is covered in dark green mildew; the sill and frame are cracked.

In the other bedrooms black mould extends along the skirting boards. In one, where her son (17) used to sleep, the ceiling is scarred with mildew and water marks extend down the walls.

“He won’t come here any more. He just said, ‘It’s a kip.’ I wouldn’t put him here. So he stays with his dad.” Asked how that made her feel, she says, “Horrendous.”

A bedroom covered in damp. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan
A bedroom covered in damp. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

She says birds are nesting in the ceiling above the small kitchen, while in the bathroom tiles have fallen from the walls, the shower is not working and the toilet leaks out onto the floor. Again, skirting boards are rotting and the ceiling is scarred by mildew. The central heating does not work, she says, as it trips the electricity. And so she has no hot water.

“The only source of heat we have is this stove.”

Entitled to the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap) since May 2019, she pays €60 a month, while Cavan County Council pays the balance of the €550 rent, to the landlord, local farmer Paul Brady.

Under the housing regulations, the house should have been inspected by the council within eight months. It was not inspected however, and as inspections were halted during lockdown, it remains uninspected.

“I have been begging and begging them to come and look at it,” says Ms Coates.

After contacting the housing charity, Threshold, in January 2020 for advice, she was served with a notice to quit by Mr Brady.

Her challenge to the notice was upheld at the Residential Tenancies Board in February. The board also found “the dwelling does not meet minimum standards” and ordered Mr Brady to pay Ms Coates €1,500. He is appealing this.

A large part of the ceiling has fallen down in the kitchen. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan
A large part of the ceiling has fallen down in the kitchen. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

Contacted by The Irish Times Mr Brady said he did not wish to comment.

A spokesman for Cavan County Council said he could not comment on the case. There are 461 Hap tenancies in the county.

There were 126 Hap inspections in 2019, 33 last year and while the council had issued 21 “virtual inspection” requests to landlords this year, “only two have returned the required information”.