A mum-of-one says she is at her wits end because of a mouse infestation at the flats where she lives in Cliftonville.
Millie Sparks and her four-month-old baby moved into a flat in Athelstan Road last June after a stop on Universal Credit payments -later reinstated- resulted in the loss of her previous home.
The 24-year-old, says the property has a number of flats with different landlords, meaning the condition of some homes are much poorer than others.
An issue with rubbish and food waste being dumped in a communal area of the building and flytipping outside is making the problem worse, says Millie.
She said: “ When I am in the living room and bathroom I can hear them n the ceiling, squeaking and rummaging around. I didn’t notice when I first moved in because I did a lot of work. There was a dead mouse by a socket that we changed but I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
“Then I thought I saw one on the worktop but wasn’t sure. I set up my baby cam in to catch it on there and it did.
“My landlord sent someone out and I have had th holes blocked up but they are still getting in. I have had pest control in and the first time they ate the bait but not the second. I have put traps down but they don’t go in them. I’ve had tracking powder put down and you can see they are still there. I don’t leave any food out or any rubbish, I don’t know what else to do.”
Millie, who suffers from a painful back condition following a trampolining accident several years ago, says on top of post natal anxiety she is now scared mice will get into her baby daughter’s room.
She added: “I keep panicking about it. I keep everything clean and I have asked for the people to stop putting rubbish in the hallway but it is still happening.”
Ward councillor Alan Currie says everything possible is being done to address the problem.
He said: “Her landlord is very good. Pest control and Environmental Health have been fully involved, letters have been sent to all residents in the block regarding the mouse problem and I have put up notices in three languages in the hallway and knocked next door to Millie asking them to keep the hallway swept, which they have done recently. “Everything possible is being done but it is a problem many large blocks have and not an easy one to eradicate.”
A Thanet District Council spokesperson said: “Pest control in a tenanted flat is primarily the responsibility of the occupiers. The landowner would only become involved if the issue was associated with something beyond the tenants’ responsibility, such as problems within communal areas or clear structural issues with the building.
“The council is not the freeholder of this property and has no duty to provide a pest control service. It has the responsibility for ensuring that landowners and landlords take relevant action to resolve infestations. We are in contact with the landowner and will continue to work with them on the issues reported.
“In this case, the council’s Environmental Health team has conducted numerous visits to the building to investigate the issues that have been raised. As part of this investigation, the team has written to all tenants on two occasions – requesting information in the first letter and giving general advice in the second. We have been unable to identify a specific party who is causing or adding to the issue. The council therefore cannot take any further action as there is no clear evidence.”
Athelstan Road Tenants and Residents’ Association
Matt Shoul, of Athelstan Road Tenants and Residents’ Association, says further action must be taken.
He said: “Despite all parties involved claiming that everything that can be done, has been done, the ongoing mouse infestation has categorically not been eradicated.
“All parties must continue to take further action on all fronts, until the mouse infestation has been properly and satisfactorily eradicated.
“Only seven out of almost 20 households bothered to respond to an English only questionnaire from Environmental Control, who are ostensibly unconcerned and unaware of the large number of non-English speaking households in the multi-landlord building. They have no idea which languages are spoken, or if households are even literate in their mother tongue and as they’re not statutorily obliged to research these essential facts for effective local authority communication with its constituents, no further action will be taken, despite ARTRA encouraging social services to undertake this essential research and asking for TDC officers from different departments to communicate and devise a multi-agency, coordinated actionable approach to this highly complex situation.”
Mr Shoul says issues of antisocial behaviour, over-occupancy, apparently truanting children and cigarette butts left in indoor communal areas are some of the issues that need tackling.
He added: “Without a coherent multi agency local authority approach to these multifarious difficulties, no satisfactory resolution to any single issue will occur.
“ARTRA acknowledges the concerted involvement and strenuous efforts of Cllr Alan Currie, to whom we are extremely grateful for his tenacity in this serious & complex situation. He has demonstrably gone above and beyond normal councillor action on this case. However, too many council departments. undertake the bare statutory minimum and regard their civic duty as accomplished.”
The council has negotiated a reduced rate for pest control services in Thanet. Visit www.thanet.gov.uk/pest-control-services for information.
ARTRA – Athelstan Road Tenants & Residents’ Association – are deeply concerned that despite all parties involved claiming that everything that can be done, has been done, the ongoing mouse infestation has categorically not been eradicated.
All parties must continue to take further action on all fronts, until the mouse infestation has been properly & satisfactorily eradicated.
Only 7 out of almost 20 households bothered to respond to an English only questionnaire from Environmental Control, who are ostensibly unconcerned & unaware of the large number of non-English speaking households in the multi-landlord building – having no idea which languages are spoken, or if households are even literate in their mother tongue & as they’re not statutorily obliged to research these essential facts for effective local authority communication with its constituents, no further action will be taken, despite ARTRA encouraging Social Services to undertake this essential research & for TDC Officers from different departments to communicate & devise a multi-agency, coordinated actionable approach to this highly complex situation, which involves ongoing:
• ASB – smearing food on the walls & floors of indoor communal areas
• Smoking in communal indoor areas & stubbing cigarettes out on walls & carpeted floors.
• Severe ongoing over occupancy of one to two person flats – 4 adults, 4 young children, numerous teenagers & a baby all live within a single flat & simply lie to TDC officials.
• Children of school going age within the building during school hours, with zero evidence of any involvement of an EWO – Educational Welfare Officer – to engage children in mandatory state education – perpetuating a catastrophic NEET – Not in Education Employment or Training – vicious cycle for numerous families.
Without a coherent multi agency local authority approach to these multifarious difficulties, no satisfactory resolution to any single issue will occur – ARTRA acknowledges & is extremely grateful for the concerted involvement & strenuous efforts of Cllr. Alan Currie, to whom we are extremely grateful for his tenacity in this serious & complex situation, who has demonstrably gone above & beyond normal councillor action on this case. However, two many TDC Depts. undertake the bare statutory minimum & regard their civic duty accomplished, with no coordination between departments, no joined-up thinking, no problem solving, in favour of passing the buck & issuing standard letters stating no more can be done, i.e. the matter is beyond their remit.
ARTRA cannot let the matter rest until the numerous, multi-agency concerns still very much in evidence at the property have all been properly resolved to the tenants satisfaction: Athelstan Road cannot remain a law free zone, devoid of the social wellbeing safety nets & duty of care a civilised state purports to uphold & is legally obliged to provide.
Athelstan Road is in the Selective Licensing Area of TDC. Private Sector Housing and Regeneration Team are part of the ‘Multi-Agency Task Force’ set up in 2011 (and is very well funded) to tackle all of these exact offenses. TDC keep the money but never act in accountability for residents. The next big housing bomb to drop will be the total lack of any valid Health and Safety certificates of residents living in the Selective Licensing Areas, with the most seriously deprived living conditions recorded. No significant action has been taken on behalf of residents safety for over 10 years now, despite TDC pocketing the money.
Have you any idea of the amount of legislation that is applicable to the private rented sector? To name a few,
Housing Health Safety Rating System
Legionella Risk Assessments
Electrical Installation Condition Reports
Quite where do you see the a – housing bomb and complete lack of health and safety- just asking like. Hosuing conditions will most certainly get worse for some as and when Sec21 is done away with, if you think there are problems with ASB now wait until landlords have to prove it beyond doubt to remove antisocial tenants.
A prime example of why selective licensing does nothing much but raise revenue, in the proposal document for both the original and redesignation of the scheme , the council decided that there was no need to look at the issue of migration in the area, despite the levels of deprivation etc prevalent in the migrant community ( plenty of reports about , dentistry, sexual health and attitudes towards women etc.)
The problem in the building is not the building but those living in it. Leave food laying around and you’ll get mice, hardly rocket science, that those living in the building choose to create hazards by smoking in the common areas and creating hazards by leaving items in them is hardly the building owners individual landlords fault.
Its why Athelstan Road has the reputation it does and has had for many a year, it has lots of people who just don’t care. It’s easy to spot the drug dens and brothels, but the attitiude from the council and police is that everyone has to live somewhere,
The problem has no solution other than evicting all the problematic tenants and putting in decent ones, which pretty much reflects many of cliftonvilles problems, that its been used as a dumping ground for many years to house those with multiple issues has resulted in housing that reflects the way its looked after, too many residents are destructive and uncaring of their homes, they overcrowd them and think nothing of it, so long as the tenancy agreement has a limit on the number to occupy the property the landlord has done no wrong and the council take a view that its not in the public interest to deal with tenant instigated overcrowding.
A prime example of those that take up a disproportionate amount of resources, hardly surprising the area has the refuse problems it does.
Those that have moved into the road and are most vocal now realise why the property was so cheap.
As for the pest control service the council suggests people use , it can take upto 4 weeks to get a visit when i enquired the company was based miles away, so if you want a faster service you have to use a local company who are considerably dearer , so again no surprise nothing gets done.
The photo showing the communal area illustrates a scenario where a tenant has hung out their washing in the hallway and plugged a fan heater into the communal supply to dry the washing.
That way, the landlord picks up the tab for the increased electricity use rather than the tenant.
Not only is there a fire hazard In the communal parts, the fire escape is compromised with obstacles.
Clearly, TDC will be aware of the occupiers, leaseholders and freeholder through Council Tax records so it needs to co-ordinate all the other agencies involved (including the Fire Brigade) and get the problem sorted.
Won’t happen. Though i’d guess the fan heater is just rubbish, very unlikely a landlord would leave a live socket available in a common area for just the reasons you point out, other points are valid. Council will do nothing much, just about impossible to get tenants to alter their ways, good chance the flat is overcrowded hence the washing in corridor. Fire service can do little more than advise, freeholder cannot be responsible for tenants actions neither can landlord, as is demonstrated by the actions of the irresponsible at Invicta house for example.
In the absence of sufficient imminent danger to warrant a closure order (which won’t happenbecause council would then be liable for rehousing the occupants) very little can be done.
Similar problems occur in other areas of cliftonville , Julian court in Edgar Road is a prime example. I know of one landlord that had a whole building in athelstan , he’s very experienced and abides by the law, he sold up,
The quality of tenant willing to live in athelstan left much to be desired
But main problem was the adjacent property owned by a london landlord who had no interest beyond the rent. Endless problems of insect infestations coming fromthe building next door and the asb meant the building was more trouble than it was worth so he sold it.
Selective licensing does nothing for such issues council has little interest beyond desk based paper offences, and even then they can’t get it right. All from a council that can’t look after its own housing stock properly.
I used to live in Cornwall Gardens and had a problem with mice, apparently the whole area has an issue according to a local pet shop, he told us that when he locks up in the winter when it gets dark early, he sees a load of mice running up the road. Its horrible especially when you have kids. Our landlord got exterminators out and they said it was downstairs where they were coming from and there was nothing we could do. So we moved out in the end.
Athelstan Road is a Shit Tip
There was a time when councils did the basics properly that these properties would be compulsorily purchased refurbished and relet with a housing manager responsible for the whole block. The Council is using selective licensing money inappropriately.
You really don’t know what you’re talking about, these flats were converted around 2000 , had planning permission and would have had either council building control or an external inspector. As the council points out there is no action they can take because the freeholder and landlords are compliant with the rules as they are, all these flats will be licensed ( assuming they are let) so the council has had ample opportunity to inspect them at the landlords expense.
So the problem you have left is the people living there, who are largely eastern european migrants living as they would if they were still in their home country, they’ll all be able to access the health and benefits system when it suits them , they live the way they want, it were not for the young lady at the start of the story no one would be the wiser, there will be those who say we can’t tell people how to live if they are happy doing so the way they do.
But for most of us discarded food in hallways, drying washing , storing furniture, smoking etc is not the norm. If the landlords evicted the tenants someone else would say that was wrong, a decent pest control service from the council ( as it used to be) should be a primary function of any council, somehow we can declare a “climate emergency” and fund an officer and all sorts of gumpf , but not deal with infestations, most would say that on a personal and immediate level fleas,cockroaches, mice and rats are more of a problem.
Yet its the behaviour of tenants that causes the problem not the landlord or council, at which point do you address the real problem rather than blame everyone else?
This and many more roads in and around suffer vermin problems and has since the rubbish collections which is as you all know is outside many times do not get collected. 26-30 has had many problems with this and added to the fact that some other houses near do not use the bins at the top and bottom but over spill the bins at 26-30 then the dustmen come along see the mess and don’t stop. Council are aware it would also help if a proper lock was on the main door so every tom dick and Harry can not just come in to sleep we can address the flats we manage there we have 1 on the ground floor but there’s no point in doing one flat the whole block needs treating and securing