[A-List] Britain's powerhouse economy, classless judiciary
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Mon Feb 18 23:45:59 MST 2002
Asthma mother pays the price of health
The Herald, 19 February 2002
AN asthmatic mother who lives with her young son
in a flat plagued by dampness, condensation and
mould has lost her fight to force her council to
remedy the situation.
Three judges agreed that the conditions in which
Judith Robb and her son are living are damaging to
their health, but two ruled that Dundee City Council
was not responsible for the situation.
They said that, although it might seem harsh, the
real reason for the conditions in which Ms Robb
was living was that she could not afford to use the
availabe heating facilities.
The decision at the Court of Session follows
yesterday's re-port from the Child Poverty Action
Group which found that three quarters of a million
households in Scotland cannot afford adequate
Lady Paton, who ruled in favour of Ms Robb, said
that she was living in conditions which no-one
should have to suffer.
She said: "A flat intended for use as a home, with a
persistent condensation dampness problem
resulting in the growth of mould on walls, damage
to decoration, mould on bedding, clothes and toys
and one room becoming unusable, cannot but be
classified according to our law as a nuisance."
Ms Robb's ground-floor flat in Balunie Crescent,
Dundee, was built in 1958. She moved in in July
1996 and noticed mould on the walls and ceilings
the following month. The growth continued and she
complained to the council from January 1997
onwards. The dampness in her son's bedroom
became so bad that he could no longer use it.
The flat had an electric heater in the living room,
there were power sockets in the two bedrooms and
the hallway where heaters could be plugged in, and
extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom. The flat
was also double-glazed.
Ms Robb's father also had given her additional
heaters, but she could not afford to use them.
She went to Dundee Sheriff Court seeking an order
under the Environmental Protection Act requiring
the local council to take steps to improve her living
conditions but her case was rejected.
In her appeal at the Court of Session, all the judges
accepted that the conditions amounted to a health
hazard, but Lords Cameron and Johnston ruled
that Ms Robb had failed to prove that Dundee
Council was responsible for that state of affairs.
Lord Cameron said: "At the end of the day, Ms
Robb's problems are caused by the fact that the
flat is inadequately heated, primarily because she
is unable to pay more money to provide the
necessary further heating."
Lord Johnston agreed, saying: "Although it may
seem harsh by reason of the fact that Ms Robb's
restricted finances are obviously not her fault . . .
the inevitable conclusion must be that the person
responsible for the nuisance is not the landlord but
the tenant, that is Ms Robb. If the problem is
financial, another course has to be pursued."
In her dissenting judgment, Lady Paton said that,
because of its design and construction the flat had
a pronounced vulnerability to condensation
dampness, a state of affairs attributable to the
persons who brought the premises into existence -
the council and its predecessors.
Full article at:
Mercuria Business School
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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