West Lothian housing: Disabled mum-of-three 'worried sick' about freezing, mouldy house with rotting windows
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A disabled West Lothian mum struggling to afford rising heating bills said she’s ‘worried sick’ about the conditions in her freezing and damp house which has rotting windows. Heather Miller – who has thyroid cancer, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis – says the state of her windows in their Breich council house is so bad she can’t believe they haven’t “fallen out” of their frames.
The cracked panes let in the cold but the 44-year-old said they can’t afford to turn up the heating after the cost of topping up their meter doubled recently to more than £200 a month. Wheelchair user Mrs Miller has also seen her rent increase for the 3-bedroom council house. Now she’s losing sleep over mounting worries about how the family will manage to heat their home and fears they’d be ‘better off homeless’.
But, after complaining to the council, she has been told in a letter seen by the Evening News that the nearly 40-year-old windows won’t be replaced for another two to three years. A spokesperson for West Lothian council said they have no record of complaints at the address.
She said: “The house is always freezing because we can’t afford to turn the heating up. It’s damp in every room and the windows are rotting with mould with cracked panes. It’s awful. I don't know how they haven't fallen out. We’d heard they were going to be upgraded then covid hit so I can understand it not getting done then. But now we are being told they won’t be done for another couple of years. We can’t live like this.”
Persistent dampness and mould affecting her children's bedrooms are a huge worry for Mrs Miller, whose husband John has asthma as well as her 17-year-old son Brendan. Mrs Miller is due who to have an operation on her spine which carries a significant risk that she’ll be unable to walk again.
She said: “My husband has asthma and one of my kids has had childhood asthma and he’s now coughing more. It does get worse in the winter with the cold but I know that the state of the mould and damp is bad for us. We all feel not well often. Our clothes and shoes are ruined too. I find it hard to sleep. I’m worried sick about how we are going to manage while the bills keep going up, yet we are still always freezing. I feel stuck. It’s desperate. I wonder if we’d be better off if we were homeless.”
Figures released recently showed a dramatic increase in cases of damp and mould in social housing in Scotland, with nearly 12,000 complaints lodged over the past 12 months. In Edinburgh, damps and mould complaints soared ten-fold.
A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “There was never plans to install windows in this area in 2019 and there is no delay in any planned window replacement programme in this area. The current programme is planned for this area 2025/26. We would advise all tenants that if they are concerned about their home, or if they would like to make a repairs request, they should report their concerns to the council.”