Mum wants Torus to swap with her for a day to see how horrible her life is

A family once delighted to be moving into a new home claim they have faced a raft of issues.

Nicole Smith moved into a new house managed by Torus, a Merseyside-based housing association, with her partner Tom Hampson and daughter Sydney in August 2022 and started to make it their new home. But after a severe leak forced them to move out of their Seacombe home and into a hotel, she feels the housing association is “literally treating us like animals” and ignoring her.

Torus has said sorry and that it has not always resolved issues "in a timely manner”, with its chief operating officer stating “we will work swiftly to resolve all issues for the family, and again I apologise that the position has escalated to this.”

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Nicole, who is disabled, said the situation was “demeaning,” adding: “I do not feel like they are treating me like a human being, not at all. Every person I try to ring, they say no that’s a different person. If I ring about housing, that is one person. If I ring about the food allowances, it’s a different person.

“I didn’t feel like there was anywhere else to turn to. This is the last resort because there isn’t anywhere else to go. They aren’t fixing the room. It’s like they are beating us down.

“It’s just so much. I have had enough now. They are literally treating us like animals. I would like any of them to do it for just one day because I know it would change things. It’s really tough.”

She added: “I feel unlistened to. I feel invisible. I feel as if I do not exist. If I had somewhere to go, I would go somewhere else. The relationship has broken down so much I can’t even trust them. They were supposed to be my support network.”

A few months after Nicole moved in, the heating started failing leaving the family sometimes without hot water or heating for a week. This was the start of a number of problems, including her daughter's foot breaking through the bathroom floor and leaving a six-inch hole.

Nicole's floor after the leak
Nicoles floor after the leak -Credit:Copyright Unknown

The shower used by Nicole, who struggles to stand for long periods of time, was fixed with no gradient which meant water didn't drain away properly. A leak went into her daughter's bedroom, down the wall, and through the skirting boards leaving pools of water under the floor and ruined the carpet she paid £3,000 for.

In November 2023 she reported signs of damage and in January 2024, she was told she couldn't use the bathroom and the family would have to move out. Nicole claims she was told this wouldn't be fixed until at least May and that the locks on her home were changed, but she is still paying the bills for the property months later.

She said she has had to go to food banks because the family's food allowance has come in late, Torus falsely claimed she was in rent arrears, and work had only started on the property this month.

The family have been staying in hotels. Every Friday, Nicole said they are made homeless as they have to check out of a hotel or room several hours before being able to book in for the next week.

When the LDRS first spoke to Nicole, she had been struggling to get out of bed or use the toilet after Torus booked her into a non-disabled friendly room. She said: “Torus was told by the hotel “are you aware that there isn’t a disabled room?” I haven’t been able to have a shower for a week because it’s not a disabled access shower.”

Torus did later put the family up in an Airbnb Nicole suggested but she said there were still issues and her partner is having to take time off work to support her and her daughter. Nicole said she hasn’t been able to take her issues to the Housing Ombudsman, which investigates complaints against social housing providers

This is because Torus hadn't escalated her complaint, but the ECHO understands the housing provider has now done this.

When a surveyor recently visited the property with Nicole, she said she found the keys in a lock box were exposed and discovered her heating and ventilation units hadn't been serviced every six or three months like they should have been. Her fridge and freezer had also been switched off with all the food inside rotten.

Nicole and her family have sought help from Wirral Council’s housing department who she said have been amazing. She also said staff at New Brighton’s Travelodge had also been incredibly supportive when it came to their accessibility needs.

Cllr Julie McManus, who has known Nicole and her family for many years, called on Torus to “open their ears, listen and do the right thing,” adding: “They ignored my telephone calls for help. As a locally elected politician here to represent Wirral residents, I am absolutely disgusted and disappointed in Torus who have a complete lack of empathy or understanding for the position they have chosen to leave Nicole in.”

Cllr McManus passed the issue on to Wirral’s council leader Cllr Paul Stuart, who represents Seacombe where Nicole lives. He said he will be writing to Torus “to ensure this does not happen to any other tenant living in Wirral,” adding: “It is not the standard Wirral Council expects from any landlord, never mind professional social landlords.”

Wallasey MP Angela Eagle said 0.: "Nicole’s treatment by Torus is completely unacceptable and deeply worrying. Her experience has been that of a litany of failures, and urgent action must be taken to resolve it as soon as possible. I am raising her case with Torus, and would urge them to reflect on Nicole’s shockingly poor treatment and service and take the relevant action to ensure no one else has the same experience."

Catherine Murray-Howard, chief operating officer at Torus Group, said: “I would like to apologise to Ms Smith and her family for their experience during the last 18 months as it has been extremely upsetting for them. As repairs have been raised, Torus has not always resolved these in a timely manner.

“We are extremely sorry that the many interactions have been responsible for obvious distress. Whilst the repairs are very complex and technical, (in part due to it being a new build property having included a range of new technologies), the timeliness and quality with which these have been managed has been well below the standard we would expect.

“Since recent works have been underway, we have arranged alternative accommodation which is appropriate for the whole family’s needs. Accessibility has always been a priority and this support will continue.

“We are working hard to explore all viable solutions to get the works completed quickly which would return the family to the safe, secure, and comfortable home they have the right to expect. Ms Smith is not being put to any expense as Torus are ensuring the family are fully supported and will provide appropriate redress.

“We continue to maintain open communication with our tenant ensuring they are supported and informed throughout this process. When we have a definitive date for the family to move back in, they will be advised.

“Finally, I would like to provide my assurance that we will work swiftly to resolve all issues for the family, and again I apologise that the position has escalated to this.”

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