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News Archive > General > Cold Comfort – Elderly residents complain to watchdog over state of homes

Cold Comfort – Elderly residents complain to watchdog over state of homes

By Warren Wilkins 24th February 2021

Cold Comfort – Elderly residents complain to watchdog over state of homes
Councillor Mark Formosa with Rialton Heights tenants (from left) Marie Rose, Lorraine Edwards, Sandra Miles, Peter Collins, Samantha Syms, Mandy Francis, Brenda Edwards, Maria Dixon, Roger Smith and Barney Francis, who are complaining about the condition of their homes

Elderly and disabled residents who claim they are living in cold and damp living conditions in social housing retirement properties in Newquay say their pleas for improvements have fallen on deaf ears.

Tenants who live at the 32 Ocean Housing properties in Rialton Heights have complained to their landlord on a number of occasions about damp problems and inadequate heating.

The tenants were promised new heating systems after signing a petition more than two years ago.

The residents have now asked Treviglas Cornwall councillor Mark Formosa to help with a complaint to the housing ombudsman.

But Ocean Housing said improvements have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and pledged the improvements will be completed by 2022-23.

Tenant Mandy Francis, who is a former member of Ocean’s tenants’ panel, said: “This past week has been awful and we have had to stay in bed to keep warm.

“Everyone here is elderly and/or disabled and many have mobility problems. Many are on blood thinners so they feel the cold even more so.

“We had a massive meeting where everyone came and met with Ocean two years ago this month.

“They told us all the types of heating we could get and so on and proceeded to blind everyone with science. They were meant to update us last February but they did not.

“Ocean told tenants before Christmas that eight of the flats would shortly have new heating installed, with the rest of the properties completed by 2030. However, three months on from that promise, no date has been given for work to start.

“There was also a problem with contaminated water in tanks which were obsolete and needed replacing.

“One tenant was told by a water inspector not to use her water, but Ocean later said to ignore the advice and continue using the water.”

A spokesman for Ocean Housing said: “We have been in regular contact with tenants over the past two years to explore the most appropriate and cost-effective solution to ensure they can live comfortably in their homes.

“We understand the concerns of the residents, and are disappointed our plans have been disrupted by the pandemic, as we had hoped to have started works by now as agreed with the tenant representative in December 2020.

“Due to the current lockdown, we have put the installation of all new heating systems on hold to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.

“Once lockdown is lifted, we will start to replace heating systems and water tanks in eight of the properties.

“All profits made by Ocean Housing are re-invested across our housing stock.

“We will continue to work with the residents at Rialton Heights to monitor the situation, considering upgrades to improve the energy efficiency of the worst performing homes in the near future.”

Cllr Formosa said: “I am deeply shocked and troubled over what I have been told by the tenants. Many of them are very elderly and vulnerable with the most senior resident nearly 95.

“I am told the residents are reliant on outdated and expensive night storage heaters. The heaters are costing some residents £17.50 a week to operate and run out of heat by mid-day.

“This is 2021, not 1921, and we have the knowledge and the technology these days to be able to tackle issues of dampness and warmth.

“On top of which, Ocean have just reviewed rent and service charges for all their tenants and are writing to them this week to say when they have to start paying the new rate.

“I will do all I can as their councillor to make sure these issues are prioritised and put right as soon as humanly possible, including helping with the formal complaint to the ombudsman which they are now making.

“Ocean Housing made an operating profit of almost £3 million according to their last financial year accounts so it is not as if they do not have the cash to spend on helping the pensioners of Rialton Heights.”

By Warren Wilkins 24th February 2021

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