An elderly tenant whose absentee landlord has been fined for appalling conditions in her rental home has called for landlords who live abroad to be forced by law to use a property management company.
The tenant, 92-year-old widow Helen Bora, was a wartime heroine decorated for her bravery while working for the French Resistance in the second world war.
Housing officers at her local council who responded to her complaints when her landlord did not, were appalled by her living conditions.
Mrs Bora lived for 12 years in a flat in London with a collapsed ceiling, flooding and mice infestation.
The landlord, John Garvey, who refused to do anything about the condition of the flat, has now been fined £10,000 plus £3,364 costs by Highbury magistrates for failing to comply with two improvement notices on the Grade II-listed building in Bloomsbury. He lives in Ireland.
Mrs Bora has heart and respiratory problems and osteoarthritis, and said her health suffered as a result of her living conditions. She said she had to block holes in her windows with plastic bags and that she was scared to use the sockets in the flat as she believed the electrical system was faulty. She had to use pliers to turn a tap on and off and the lavatory would not flush.
Mrs Bora, whose only daughter lives in America and who was widowed in 1961, was rehoused after environmental health officers from Camden council visited and moved her to a new home.
Garvey, director of Frankfield Properties, did not attend court.
Mrs Bora said: “It affected my health badly and I felt frustrated and angry. That’s what I’ve got against this country, that they let people who live abroad buy properties and not look after them. They should be compelled to use a property management company.
“We had a fall of a complete ceiling in a rainstorm about 18 months ago. Great pieces of plaster and rubble descended on the communal staircase and there was no one to ask.
“I phoned Camden council and said, ‘I don’t know what to do, I can’t get out of the flat’. Things from there got worse and worse. The tap came off in the kitchen and I had to use pliers to use it, and the toilet cistern broke.
“The place was infested with mice from day one: I spent a fortune on it. They were running through the pipes and they will ruin anything.”
â?¨â?¨Mrs Bora is believed to be one of the last surviving members of a team who worked directly with General Charles de Gaulle as part of the Resistance. An interview she gave about her wartime work is archived at the Imperial War Museum.
Abdul Hai, Camden cabinet member for community safety, said: “This is a particularly upsetting case, involving a highly vulnerable lady. We have a duty to protect residents in cases like this and I hope this acts as a warning to landlords that we will always take enforcement action where necessary.
â?¨â?¨“It could have been quite a different outcome if our officers had not been so diligent. I hope Mrs Bora continues to be very happy in her new home.”