Family of ten living in two rooms after being ejected from Brentwood council home

A family of ten has been left living in a two-bed flat after being ejected from their council house.

Solly Ellis, 32, and partner Donna Hollands, 43, were told to leave the property in Danes Way, Pilgrims Hatch, Brentwood, following accusations that unauthorised alterations had been made in the loft area as well as a conservatory being added without permission.

They are now living in a two-bed flat – one bedroom of which is uninhabitable due to mould.

The council says none of the works on the house in Danes Way had the appropriate permissions from building control or housing.

But Solly says he was given permission for the conservatory and the only works he carried out in the loft were to put plywood flooring down and plasterboard on the sides.

As a result of a prohibition order in response to a “category 1 hazard” issued to the family, who had been living in the three bedroom house in Danes Way for 13 years, they have been rehomed and are now living in the two-bed flat off Hutton Drive in Hutton.

In the living room is Solly along with Ryan, 23, and a nine year-old. Everyone else, including Donna, Robert, 23 and Connor, 18, along with four children all aged under ten, are sharing one room – two children are top and tailing in one bed.

Solly said: “I know we shouldn’t have, but I did it to make the family more comfortable. It was there four – five years.

“Then the council came round to do an inspection, looked in the loft and told us we weren’t meant to have a bedroom in the loft.

“But there are ten of us in a three bedroom house. We needed extra space. I didn’t do it out of maliciousness. I did it to house our family.”

The council says by removing and cutting away at the support joists, the remaining timbers were bearing six times their safe load.

It adds that  the conservatory can be seen pulling away from the wall.

Solly said : “The engineer said it is bearing six times the weight, but all I did was put floorboards down and plaster board up.

“They said I’ve removed joists which I haven’t.”

He believes the building inspector was in the property for around 15 minutes and didn’t even go in the loft before making a judgement.

The couple, who don’t work, say they did the work to make the three bedroom house more habitable.

The council has written to the family advising them the house needs to be cleared of all their possessions to allow a comprehensive survey to be undertaken to understand the full extent of the problem.

The family say they do not have the funds to place their belongings into storage.

The council adds it is anticipating to start legal proceedings to take possession of the house and the family may not be able to return in the foreseeable future.

The council anticipates that there will be substantial costs estimated at £30,000 which they will charge to the couple.

Donna said: “One of the children has autism and being in a confined space he suffers quite badly.

Normally he can take himself off. But here there is nowhere to go.

“We are all on top of one another.

“No one is giving us straight answer. I just want an answer.”

A Brentwood Borough Council spokeswoman said: “We commissioned qualified structural engineers to carry out a visual structural survey which was undertaken on  October 15 2019.

“As a result of the initial visual survey the structural engineers have advised that a full structural survey is required in order to establish the extent of the damage to the property.

“This cannot be carried out until the property is empty.

“Initial reports suggest that the timber joists in the roof are no longer in place and the first floor ceilings show cracks. To make the property safe and carry out the survey, it has been necessary for the tenants to vacate the building.

“We offered to undertake the removal of items on behalf of the tenant, but this has been declined so supervised limited access is being allowed given the condition of the property which is being monitored.

“The tenants have been rehomed in temporary accommodation and the council continues to liaise with them.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter