Edinburgh mum mocked by council housing officer over collapsed bathroom ceiling

A distressed single mum was taunted by a council housing officer who refused to help after her bathroom ceiling collapsed - unless she got the story in the Evening News.

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 6:04 pm
Ms O'Donnall was told the hole in the ceiling would not be fixed unless the story got in the Evening News (Photos: Conor Matchett)
Ms O'Donnall was told the hole in the ceiling would not be fixed unless the story got in the Evening News (Photos: Conor Matchett)

Jacqui O’Donnall was stunned after phoning the council for help only to be told rotten rafters, mouldy wood and a clear view of the upstairs bathroom’s floor was not deemed an emergency.

And rather than offering advice, the stressed out young mother said the council housing officer taunted her.

Ms O’Donnall said: “He couldn’t have been less helpful. He was sarcastic, rude and condescending.

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The hole in Ms O'Donnall's bathroom ceiling (Photo: Conor Matchett)

“I asked him to come out and look at it and he said there was no point because he is not a plumber.

She added: “He said he spoke to two inspectors and they said although they hadn’t seen the damage, a ceiling falling down is not an emergency where you have to be rehoused.

“I said I’d speak to my local councillor for help and he said ‘How? Is he a plumber?’ and then I said I’d speak to the Evening News about this and he went ‘If the Evening News take your story I’ll come round and fix your ceiling myself.’”

The Evening News knows the identity of the housing officer, but has chosen not to name him publicly.

Ms O'Donnall said a housing officer said he wouldn't fix the problem quickly unless the story got in the Evening News (Photo: Conor Matchett)

Within hours of being informed of the problems by the Evening News, the City of Edinburgh Council sent inspectors to the flat and carried out temporary repairs.

Ms O’Donnall, 32, was in her bathroom on Monday 8 July when she heard a rumble from her already sagging ceiling, caused by a leak in the bath of the flat above which had begun a few days before.

In seconds, the entire ceiling collapsed into the bath below with debris and filled the tub - and it's been continuing to fall down since.

At one point, Ms O’Donnall was told by her housing officer the damage was not considered an emergency nor was serious enough for her and her family to be rehomed or for quick repairs to take place.

The scale of the damage, which one plumber said was years worth of damp and water damage and worries about a further collapse, has led to her family being scared to use the bathroom.

“I can’t use the bathroom facilities,” she said. “My son has asthma and I’m worried about the dampness and the rot affecting his health and I’ve got constant chest infections as well.

“It’s scary for my kids because the light is not working especially when you’re going in and seeing that big hole, it’s scary for them to live in.”

Councillor Kate Campbell, housing and economy convener, said: “The flooding, and the damage caused, must have been very distressing for our tenant and we will do everything we can to help improve the situation and get things fixed as quickly as possible.

“Temporary repairs are being carried out to make sure the bathroom is safe and can still be used. We’re also working with our tenant to agree on the best time for us to carry out the permanent repairs that are needed.

“We expect high standards from our staff and the issue raised about comments made will be thoroughly investigated.”