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Dagenham couple still waiting to return home months after fire

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 January 2017

Alfred and Gwen Howard who are still in their temporary accomodation after their house was damaged in a fire last September.

Alfred and Gwen Howard who are still in their temporary accomodation after their house was damaged in a fire last September.

Archant

An elderly couple have been forced to endure months in temporary accommodation.

Gwen and Alfred Howard were rehoused in the George Crouch Centre, Dagenham, when the council house they have lived in for 31 years was damaged by a fire which started in their neighbour’s house.

The blaze broke out on September 9, but, after weeks of trying to get the council to tell them when roof damage repairs would begin, the Howards heard only last week they could return home at the end of February with work due to start on Monday.

“I’m not holding my breath about the work being done,” Gwen said.

In another blow just days before Christmas, Gwen claims the council sent the couple a bill for £188 in unpaid rent and threatened them with legal action if they failed to pay up.

Unknown to Gwen and her husband retired dock-worker, Alfred, 77, the couple’s rent had soared from £37 at the address in Fanshawe Road, where they had lived for the past 31 years and have a secure tenancy, to £123 per month at the care home in Althorne Way.

Gwen, who has barely slept since the fire, said: “I’m at my wits’ end. It’s a lot of money when you’re on benefits.”

The couple claim they were not told by the council their rent would change when they were moved from their home by the council.

“And we were yanked out of our home at a minute’s notice. I tell you straight it’s been a complete trauma. We’re the only two people here who can care for themselves,” Gwen added.

“I don’t need this at my age. I feel like I want to go to sleep and not wake up.

“With the stress we’ve had I could have had a heart attack or stroke. We had never, ever had one penny of rent arrears. I would pay it on the dot. We’ve been model tenants.”

In a statement, a spokesman for Barking and Dagenham council told the Post: “We are sorry to hear about this.

“The matter is being dealt with as an MP’s enquiry and as such we are unable to comment any further until the matter has been fully looked into.”


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