Gazette forces firm to U-turn over redecorating pensioner’s property

Ruth Appleby in her Windsor Gardens home.
Ruth Appleby in her Windsor Gardens home.
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A housing management company has made a U-turn over its refusal to redecorate the property of an 83-year-old woman with terminal cancer, after the Gazette stepped in.

Frustrated Tom Parker, 61, contacted us last Friday, claiming that Homes for Northumberland (HfN) was not willing to paint part of his mother’s house in Alnwick.

His complaint came after HfN did a series of essential maintenance jobs at Ruth Appleby’s Windsor Gardens property, including the installation of a new central-heating system, which was ‘badly needed’.

While Tom said he had no issue about the work, he told the Gazette that damage was caused to wallpaper around the radiators, fire places and areas on the wall where sockets had to be removed or replaced.

However, when he asked HfN to redecorate the living room on behalf of his elderly mother, who has arthritis, he says the company declined, stating it was not its policy.

In an email to HfN earlier this month, an exasperated Tom said: “There are now patches of different coloured wallpaper around the room.

“After receiving a paint pack and during various conversations with HfN staff, I was told that it was the tenant’s responsibility to put right any decorating and the patching of wallpaper.

“It was HfN contractors who left the walls in this state, so I believe it is their responsibility to put it right.

“My mother is an old lady who is stressed out with her health, so I would ask HfN to reconsider the decision not to decorate. I hope that common sense will prevail and HfN will show some compassion.”

But, after the Gazette contacted HfN on Tuesday, the company responded by saying it was prepared to make an exception in this instance and would do the painting, to the delight of ex-Forces man Tom, who suffers back problems.

In a comment from the company, Ian Johnson, HfN’s director of operations, said: “In cases where we have carried out improvement work, our policy is the tenant is issued with a decoration pack for materials, so they can organise redecoration themselves.

“This was decided/agreed by a tenant panel and has received strong tenant backing. During consultation with 565 tenants last autumn, seven out of 10 said they would prefer we spent our budget on carrying out improvement works on properties, as opposed to on redecorating.

“We recognise that Mrs Appleby is elderly and has health issues and ordinarily in this sort of situation families would generally provide the help to redecorate.

“In this instance, we have carried out some patching work, which is over and above what we would normally offer.

“We also offer a handy person service, whose role does not normally include redecoration, but on this occasion we are prepared to make an exception and will be in touch with Mrs Appleby to arrange for him to carry out some painting work.”