Agenda item

Questions of which notice has been given

Minutes:

Five residents of Whaley Bridge submitted the following question to the Executive Councillor for Housing and Communities:

 

‘We, the undersigned, are tenants of High Peak Borough Council.

 

Nos. 7, 9, 11 and 13 Park Road, Whaley Bridge are a block of four OAP bungalows. They replaced the ‘prefabs’ constructed after the Second World War. At the time of the construction of the bungalows, the living rooms at the rear and the kitchens at the front were switched around so that all the drainage was changed too. Rats have been a problem since that time.

 

This problem came to a head when new roofs were installed under the Government’s Decent Homes Standard programme which was introduced in 2000. Workmen for the construction company on site were exposed to dozens of rat-infested nests and inches of rat droppings. The men refused to continue with the job. The Council employed a specialist team wearing protected overalls, masks, gloves and Wellington boots to gather all the nests in the infested roofs and throw them into skips below. Since that time, the tenants have lost count of the dozens of visits by pest control operatives to replace rat poison in the roofs.

 

In 2018, the rat infestation was highlighted when the Council approved the installation of a new wet room at No.13 Park Road. The electrical contractors who were employed by the Council refused to enter the roof space when they noticed the rat nests and rat droppings. Another team of workmen was sent to clear out the insulation material, the rat nests and the decomposing bodies of dead rats; after that, the electricians returned and carried out their interrupted work. It was many months later before the insulation in the roof was replaced following requests by the tenants who found their bungalow unbearably cold.

 

The Year 2018

 

During 2018, an inspection of Nos. 7, 9, 11 and 13 was undertaken. Scaffolding was erected and roof tiles were taken off. Rat nests were exposed around chimneys and above front doors; these nests were cleared away and new roof tiles were installed.

 

Drains at the front have been inspected; broken sewage pipes have been replaced and holes have been repaired. Wire mesh has been put into holes under the eaves. Despite all the investigations and works that have been carried out, the Council has failed to find and block the entry point (or points) used by rats to access the roof spaces of the four bungalows.

 

The Year 2019

 

The continuing presence of rats has been confirmed by the Council’s pest control operative.

 

The continuing problems of rat infestation are:

 

-          Loss of sleep caused by rats scratching and scampering above bedroom ceilings

-          The smell and stench from the decomposing bodies of rats is unbearable and offensive

-          Rats carry disease and tenants have to live with this health hazard every day

-          Tenants’ Contents Insurance becomes null and void if a fire is caused by rats chewing through electrical cables

-          New tenancy agreements have been signed without new tenants being informed of the long-standing, unresolved and unacceptable major rat problems

-          The worry about the safety of young grandchildren and pets visiting the properties.

 

In our opinion, the Council has a duty of care to its tenants; it has failed to eradicate the problem of this major rat infestation and it has not investigated how rats are entering and leaving the properties.

 

You, High Peak Borough Council, are responsible as Landlord. How do you respond?

 

Response from the Executive Councillor for Housing and Community Services.

 

“We are aware of the concerns of residents and have been working with them to resolve this issue. Calls have been responded to almost immediately and we have visited at times on a weekly basis.

 

We have sealed any potential entry points for vermin, including some drainage works. We have replaced insulation, placed surveillance cameras and laid bait. 

 

It would seem that these efforts have been rewarded as the last bait laid remains untouched after almost 2 months. We will continue to monitor the situation and periodically inspect for potential entry points. Should the issue reoccur we will take all appropriate action at that time.”

 

In response to a supplementary question, Councillor McCabe stated that it had been a long standing problem and an issue that the previous landlords, High Peak Community Housing, had not dealt with effectively from the start. She would be  happy to arrange a meeting between the residents involved, the housing officers who have direct responsibility for this and herself to discuss the matter further.