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Housing

Fancy a black mould ice cream? Renters to give out scoops in landlord protest

Glasgow couple Harry Schone and Ieva Grigelionyte will hand out ice creams inspired by their mouldy flat in a protest outside their letting agents’ office this week

Renters are hoping to break the ice on their two-year dispute with their letting agent and landlord by handing out ice creams themed around black mould, damp walls and leaking ceilings.

Husband and wife duo Harry Schone and Ieva Grigelionyte, from Pollokshields, Glasgow, will hand out home-made ice creams created to look like issues in their flat when they protest outside letting agents 1st Lets’ Glasgow office on Friday.

1st Lets, however, have hit back against the couple, accusing them of making “unjust and unfair comments” and “illegally withholding their rent”.

Harry told The Big Issue decided to take action after the row took its toll. He said: “It’s been incredibly stressful. It’s stressful not knowing where you’re going to go and the housing market and rental market is crazy.

“Living with dripping water for two years you just get angry and stare at it. You wonder when is this going to stop?

“You wake up with a taste in your mouth and you can feel how damp the rooms are. We had mould growing on clothes and different things, it’s pretty grim.

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“It’s been a really psychologically trying situation to be in for a whole bunch of reasons.”

The couple moved into their rented flat three and a half years ago but reported problems with a leak in a communal roof area in March 2019. 

The leaks continued until February 2021, Harry, 30, claimed, leaving black mould growing on the walls in the property and even on the pair’s clothes.

At one point, the leaks were so bad that the couple were unable to leave their home as they needed to clear buckets and pots put out to catch drips to avoid them overflowing.

“We reported the leak and were emailing and phoning the letting agent weekly,” said Harry.

“The estate agents and landlord told us it was an unfactored building and even though the roof was affecting our flat it basically wasn’t their responsibility and they couldn’t organise for the other owners to pay for their share of the repairs.”

The pair were also served an eviction notice during the pandemic after the landlord informed the couple of their wish to sell the property. Sheriff officers are currently not able to enforce evictions in Scotland until September 30.

Fed-up with 1st Lets’ inability to fix the issues with the flat, Harry and Ieva joined tenants’ union Living Rent and now they are escalating the issue by protesting outside the letting agents’ offices this week.

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Ieva came up with the idea of modelling the flats’ problems in ice cream. The artist creates ice cream out of foraged plants as part of her work and decided to put her craft to the test to reproduce black mould, leaking ceilings and damp walls.

Harry, who works for the police, said:  “The ice cream is a bit of a gimmick but it’s just trying to highlight the issue in a fun way – it’s really difficult to make damp walls and black mould remotely appealing or interesting.

“But if it comes packaged in a nice ice cream that tastes good and looks interesting then it gets people talking about it.”

1st Lets told The Big Issue tenants living in the building where the couple reside have been afforded a rent reduction since January 2020 and works were carried out to the leaking communal roof area in July last year.

The letting agent blamed the pandemic on a delay to remedial and decorative works to fix staining on the walls of the property. The firm also stressed that the landlord of the flat needed to sell the property as he was adversely financially affected by Covid-19.

“The tenants are illegally withholding their rent, and have done so for the past three months and have stated that they will only release the rent if their ‘demands’ of payment in excess of £3,000 and a three month extension to remain in the property is agreed with,” a 1st Lets spokesperson told The Big Issue.

“The eviction process has been carried out legally with the prescribed paperwork and notice period in line with the current temporary legislation in place in regards to any eviction notices set by Scottish ministers.”

The spokesperson added: “We feel that the actions and comments from the tenants within this property are both unfair and unjust.”

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