Milton Keynes mum and children in emergency housing forced to use a potty as toilet for six weeks due to blocked loo.
'It's degrading to have to live like this,' she says
A mum who was placed in emergency housing after fleeing domestic abuse has told how she and her children have been using a potty for a toilet for most of the past six weeks.
Jessica, whose full name is being withheld for her own protection, was placed in a temporary one bedroomed flat on Conniburrow a year ago by Milton Keynes council.
She and her children, aged two and three, had fled an abusive relationship and were making a fresh start.
Though the flat is small and Jessica has to sleep on the sofa while her children have the bedroom, they were coping in their new life.
But the situation turned decidedly sour six weeks ago when the single loo in the flat became blocked.
Workmen had been in to repair the faulty heating and Jessica believes an air freshener she'd placed in the bathroom was accidently knocked down the loo during the work.
"We had to move out and stay with my mum for a couple of days while the work was going on. When we left, the air freshener was there but when we got back it had gone. Problems with the toilet not flushing started immediately."
That was in mid August, and since then 10 different tradespeople have been sent out to repair the blockage - to no avail.
"They plunge the toilet, announce it's okay and then leave. Within a very short time it's blocked again. I keep telling people the problem is deeper, probably in a pipe under the floor, but nobody will listen," said Jessica.
Meanwhile she and the children have to suffer the humiliation of using a potty.
"Both my children are potty trained and keen to use the big toilet. But we all have to use the potty. It's not nice.
"I have to wrap the solids up in a nappy and put them in bin bags with the rubbish. The urine has to be tipped down the sink or bath. Obviously I clean up afterwards but it's still not hygienic.
"It's just degrading and humiliating to have to live like this."
MK Council hires the flat through Rent Connect, which is one of the largest privately run provided of private rented sector emergency accommodation in the South of England.
Jessica said: "Rent Connect have sent so many people out to fix the toilet - I've had at least 10 visits. One of them was a painter and decorator, who knew nothing about plumbing, while others have just failed to diagnose this problem.
"I'm convinced this air freshener is wedged in a pipe somewhere very deep down. To fix it properly, the whole bathroom will probably need to come out and the floor taken up.
"I just want it to be fixed. Life is bad enough sleeping on a sofa and living in a cramped flat anyway, without having to use a potty as a toilet all the time."
Jessica has tried reporting the problem to MK Council and has even called Environment Health about the hygiene risk.
"Nobody seems to listen or care about my problem," she said.
A spokesman for Rent Connect told the Citizen today: "The issue was originally reported to us via our online maintenance portal on the 15th August 2021. Rent Connect has an obligation to investigate reports prior to this being sent across to the landlord as we are responsible for tenant related damage. In this case our engineer attended and unblocked the toilet and reported back the job was completed, unblocked toilet and free flowing.
"It was then re reported by the occupier on the 21st August with comments 'Someone came out yesterday it was fine until this morning and it’s started to rise up again when flushing (not as bad as before) but can tell that it’s heading that way, it must still be blocked somewhere'.
"Rent Connect re attended and were unable to resolve the issue. Our operatives passed this to the Managing agents to resolve as we believe this would not of been occupiers responsibility. I believe the agents instructed a plumber the same day.
The spokesman added: "The agents contractor reported back he was unable to resolve permanently as he believed it could have been caused by baby wipes being flushed down the toilet but suggested the toilet was flowing but slow. As this would then become tenants responsibility Rent connect made arrangement for a drain specialist to attend. The occupier's response to this was that she felt a plastic toilet fresher had accidently fallen in the toilet.
"Once the drain specialist had attended on the 26th August again the toilet was unblocked free flowing and working fine. The occupier spoke to the property managers and advised yes was all cleared however after a few days the toilet blocked up again.
The issue was then passed to block managers who carried out a CCTV survey they advised free flowing but could not identify a blockage."
The spokesman concluded: "While we fully appreciate and have empathy that this has been an inconvenience for the occupier, we feel that on each visit the toilet has been left free flowing and working. Albeit temporary whilst investigations have taken place to identify if a foreign object has fallen in. We feel Rent Connect have actioned this concern to the best of our ability and continue to support the occupier until the issue is resolved permanently."
The spokesman confirmed that an engineer will visit the flat tomorrow (Wednesday) to remove the toilet in hope this will find the cause and rectify it permanently.
The Citizen also contacted MK Council and a spokesman told us: "We’re concerned to have learned about the issues and expect management companies to provide a good service. We have raised this with the management company."