A mother has spoken of her anger after being sued by the owner of a house she claimed was so unsafe that her children were hospitalized for a suspected carbon monoxide leak.
Shantelle Williams says that during her stay at the home in Stanton Crescent, Kirkby, mounds of rubbish including hypodermic needles were thrown into the garden, doors and windows were broken and the boiler did not work.
As well as the gas incident, Shantelle claimed one of her young boys fell after leaning against loose pins on the stairs, and in recent weeks a faulty electrical circuit caught fire in the early hours in the morning.
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After more than a year of problems, the house was inspected by environmental health officers from Knowsley Council.
The inspection report identified a series of shocking hazards and a letter was delivered to owner John Potter, doing business as J&D Services, in October, warning him to make immediate improvements.
Support worker Shantelle, mum to Kai, 10, and Tyler, five, says the most terrifying incident happened last summer.
The 30-year-old told ECHO: “Both boys were complaining of headaches. I thought they were just typical boys, but a family member came and when she got home , she called me and said ‘Shantelle, I have a really bad headache’.
“I started to panic and called British Gas. They came out and had to turn everything off. They told me it was better to leave the property and I took the boys to the hospital in Ormskirk.
“Doctors said they had high levels of carbon monoxide in their systems but were fine in the end.”
Shantelle shared a copy of a gas safety warning notice from the engineer who visited the property, which states, “Possible boiler odor, at risk, do not use, flue must be sealed.”
Despite the dangerous condition of the property, J&D Services has now filed a lawsuit over alleged rent arrears – Shantelle filing a counterclaim for failing to keep the property suitable for human habitation.
Mr Potter also owns J&D Estate Agents through which Shantelle leased the property.
In legal documents seen by ECHO, J&D denies failing to maintain the property and claims repairs were hampered by Shantelle not allowing workmen access.
However, Shantelle says she was in regular contact with J&D estate agents and spent around £10,000 of her own money to make the house habitable.
Shantelle and her sons were due to move into the house in July 2020 after her relationship with her ex-partner ended.
But with no hot water and heating, Shantelle and her boys had to stay with her ex-partner for weeks before they could move in.
She told ECHO: “I was in desperate need of a house. I had left my partner and it was for rent.
“When I went to see it it was in poor condition. But the estate agent said don’t worry, all the repairs will be done by the time you move in.
“Two weeks later I signed the contract, but no repairs had been made.
“The front door didn’t close properly, it was stuck and so were most of the windows in the house.
“In the kitchen, they had a piece of washing-up wire that held the window closed and tied around the faucets in the sink.
“I couldn’t move in for weeks because the boiler wasn’t working and there was no hot water.”
Despite the issues with the property, Shantelle claimed she was not offered a discount.
When she finally moved in, she described how mounds of rubbish were present in the front and back gardens, including needles strewn across the grass.
J&D claims the trash was not there when the house was rented and was “thrown over the fence from a neighboring property” and said they arranged for it to be cleaned up .
In an email sent to J&D on July 6, 2020, seen by ECHO: Shantelle wrote, “I’m just in disbelief there is a wire holding the kitchen window locked, it’s broken and won’t lock.
“The entirety of one of the bedroom windows is literally about to fall off, one of the bedroom windows does not open posing a fire hazard, I have been reassured that all these issues would be resolved before moving in.
“I paid a lot of money to move in and now I can’t move in because the house is unsafe.”
Further emails, sent later in the month, said: “I spoke to Shelter and Citizen’s Advice and they gave me lots of advice.
“You made me sign a contract when the house was not in habitable condition. The boiler was not working, there is still no water coming from the bathroom tap and the shower does not doesn’t work, so I still can’t move in.”
When ECHO contacted J&D Services, a company representative claimed it had complied with its legal obligations and denied that the house was uninhabitable.
However, the company said it could not go into specifics due to the ongoing court case.
According to the Knowsley Council’s environmental health report, inspectors identified eight specific danger areas, including damp and mold growth, excess cold from the broken boiler, electrical hazards and the risk of intruder due to broken front door.
Shantelle added: “It really affected me financially and it also seriously affected my mental health, especially when they were denying everything.
“It was horrible, the state of the house is shameful.”
Shantelle says she has since been relocated by Knowsley Council, although there are still a few weeks left on her tenancy.
The court case is ongoing.
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