“To get all the kids out we had to run past a fire.”
The last privately rented home Sioned* and her children lived in was perilously dangerous. During their time in this house in North Wales they faced two house fires, a malfunctioning boiler which left them without hot water, severe damp and a landlord who not only refused to improve the conditions of their home but immediately accused Sioned of causing the damage.
A melting fuse in a faulty fuse box caused the first house fire; this forced Sioned to gather her three young children and make a desperate escape out of the house directly in front of the blaze. After they reached safety Sioned soon contacted the landlord. However she wasn’t met with compassion or any concern for her young children; instead the landlord accused Sioned of tampering with the electrics and called the police in an unsuccessful attempt to evict the young family immediately, which would have left them homeless.
Sioned and her children were soon placed in a hostel by the homelessness department, and although grateful for a roof over their heads, the accommodation was over 30 miles away from their home and not close to amenities.
After working with the local authority, the landlord eventually allowed the family to return to their home. The local authority agreed to this on the condition that the landlord made the necessary repairs and obtained all necessary electrical certificates.
However, despite assuring the council that these steps would be taken, the landlord did not make the improvements and the council did not follow it up. Unsurprisingly, this caused yet another house fire and Sioned was forced to face the same terror once again and flee, now with four children including her two-week-old baby boy.
The landlord again accused Sioned of causing the fire by tampering with the electrics, despite a fire investigation report concluding that the fire was caused by faulty electrics.
After the second house fire, Sioned was allowed to return with her children to collect their belongings. The landlord was present and watched the young family prepare to move. She demanded that all was completed in two hours and that the house was also cleaned despite the fire damage.
All these experiences left their mark on Sioned who now lives in a council house. She feels lucky that her children are safe and healthy, and strongly feels that her landlord’s negligence could well have killed her children. The experience has also affected the children with the oldest having missed school during their time in the hostel. But Sioned says that the greatest effect on her and her children is the emotional stress of the instability they suffered during this time.
* Name changed to protect anonymity