Published: 06:00, 24 October 2020
A father says his family can't stay in their new home because it is riddled with damp.
Mr Whippy ice cream man Tony Cooper, 53, was moved to new premises in Swanstree Avenue, Sittingbourne, by housing association Optivo at the end of July, but says extensive repair work was needed.
He and his wife Debbie, 43, and son Harry, 10, discovered a list of 16 faults in the two-bedroom property and are now waiting for an entire floor to be relaid after contractors found rising damp.
Optivo say the faults have been repaired and said when the family moved into the property there was no damage to the floorboards.
Mr Cooper said: "I want to know why Optivo moved us in knowing the state of the house? Who signed it off as being fit to let?"
The family wanted to return to their original three-bed home in Langley Road, which they had offered to buy, while repairs are carried out but the locks have been changed, although Mr Cooper's ice cream van remains parked outside.
The couple moved into Langley Road in 2015 to look after Debbie's dad who had suffered bleeds to his brain and were told they could purchase the property under the government's Right To Buy scheme. But they say they were turned down because they weren't married at the time.
When Debbie's father died in January Optivo told the couple to move out. They asked to buy the property again because they had since wed, but say the Right To Buy offer was withdrawn.
Mr Cooper said: "We ended up paying rent on both properties but Optivo won't let me take my ice cream van to the new house so I have nowhere to plug it in to keep the freezer on."
He added: "When we moved in, there were loose floorboards. My wife trod on one which flew up and knocked us both over and I now have a trapped nerve in my leg.
"Contractors sent to repair the floorboards found the house had 70% damp in the lounge, hall and staircase. They reckon it will take two weeks to relay the floor and expect us to live upstairs in the meantime. It's a nightmare."
Mr Cooper, who was behind Swale's homeless bus project and helps runs the food and clothes bank at Phoenix House, said: "I spend my spare time trying to help other people but when I need help myself I can't get any. All I want is a roof over our heads."
An Optivo spokesman said: "We’re sorry about the repair issues Mr Cooper has raised and we’re continuing to work closely with him to resolve these as quickly as possible.
"We carried out a survey at the property in Swanstree Avenue before Mr Cooper moved in. Our contractors completed all the jobs which were raised and a further post inspection was carried out.
"The floorboards were not damaged when we signed off the property. Mr Cooper has subsequently contacted us about an issue with some of the floorboards. We’re speaking with Mr Cooper to arrange a convenient time to carry out this repair.
"There was also no evidence of damp before Mr Cooper moved into his home in the summer. The issue has arisen since the weather has got colder. We arranged for a specialist damp survey to take place and we’ve just received the report.
"We’ll be arranging for a specialist damp contractor to visit Mr Cooper’s home and we’ll speak to Mr Cooper to arrange a suitable start date to carry out any works."
'We’re sorry about the repair issues Mr Cooper has raised and we’re continuing to work closely with him to resolve these...'
He added: "We have written and spoken to Mr Cooper at length about the reasons he didn’t have the Right to Buy at Langley Road. The tenancy was not in Mr Cooper’s name and the Right to Buy was lost when the tenancy holder sadly passed away.
"Finally, we’ve never stopped Mr Cooper parking his ice cream van on the road outside his house. He’s entitled to do this subject to parking restrictions and as long as he’s not causing a nuisance to neighbours.
"If Mr Cooper wished to park it on the green outside his front window he’d need access to a dropped kerb and so would have to make an application to the local authority."