Family forced to live in 6 hotel rooms in 4 months because council apartment poses fire risk


A family of four is “mentally broken” after being forced to live in one hotel room for months because their apartment was considered a fire hazard.

Nick Tait, his wife Pennie Barnard and their two daughters, aged six and three, were among dozens of families displaced from the Riverside Place residential complex in Braintree, Essex, in May.

A catalog of fire safety issues in the two apartment blocks, occupied by tenants from housing associations and private residents, was identified following a thorough investigation resulting in a 160-page report.

The Essex County Fire and Rescue Service confirmed to the Mirror it has been called 11 times over incidents at the site since February 2020.

But while all other occupants have now reportedly been relocated, with help from Braintree District Council, Nick and his family are still living with suitcases at a budget hotel near a busy A road.

And even had to put their puppy in foster care.

Resort owner Home Group has told all tenants they are due to vacate Riverside with immediate effect on May 26 and has started moving to hotels extensively.

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The family’s belongings are currently packed in their Riverside Place apartment


Nick Tait)

However, the company still has staff based in the complex, who are patrolled by fire guards.

Nick and his family have been living in a Premier Inn in Galleys Corner, Braintree, about three miles from their home, since July 9.

It’s one of six hotels they’ve stayed at in the past four months – some of them for just one night – and is located next to the A120, with father fearing they “may still to be here at Christmas “.

The family had been told that nothing more permanent was available because their “needs are too great”.

Nick’s wife, Pennie, is disabled, so neither of them drives a ground-floor property within a mile of their eldest’s school.

Home Group told them in June that if they found private rental accommodation, it would act as a guarantor and pay a year’s rent in advance, which would allow them to keep the rental.

The family lives in a cramped single room with no cooking facilities


Nick Tait)

“It’s a complete mess right now, the way we’ve been treated is disgusting,” Nick told the Mirror.

“My partner is now taking antidepressants and sleeping pills because of this.”

Nick said his children were “traumatized” and since his six-year-old returned to school in September, the principal has sent a letter “expressing concern” about the child’s concern for fire safety.

“Wherever we go and take our kids, the first thing they do when we walk into the building is look for an alarm system and say ‘are we safe, mom?'” he explains.

“It’s really upsetting kids, they yell at me and say ‘why do we only have one room to live in?’ A hotel room with four beds. “

The Premier Inn is located next to the busy A120


Nick Tait)

Nick said he had to reduce his working hours to three days instead of five to help his wife because of “the emotional effect it had on the children.”

“They are very angry, very anxious. That shouldn’t be the case for a three and six year old, they should be happy.”

Since they only have a small refrigerator in the room and no means of cooking, the family largely lives off food from a nearby pub.

“To try to get the kids down at night, my partner and I have to turn off all the lights and sit in the dark, otherwise the kids will be sitting until 10pm,” Nick continued.

“We have nothing to do in this hotel room other than sit and watch TV.”

He added that due to their location on a bypass, they have to constantly listen to passing vehicles, while trying to walk away is dangerous.

Nick bought a puppy for his wife earlier this year, which had to be placed in foster care as none of the Home Group hotels housed him with permitted pets.

And he claims Home Group told him to send all taxi or laundry receipts and he would be refunded.

But, with money very tight, he would still be waiting around £ 635 to transfer.

This has been disputed by Home Group, which claims the money was refunded, with only a much smaller refund request to process.

“I just want to get some normalcy back for my kids. I don’t seem to be getting anywhere,” Nick said.

Matt Forrest, Executive Director of Operations at Home Group, said: “As a result of a routine security check and further investigation, we identified that significant repair work was required at our properties. Riverside Place.

“We had to make the extremely difficult decision to move clients in order to do this work.

“We are fully aware that the situation has been extremely difficult and I would like to offer my sincere apologies for the disruption and upheaval this has caused.

“We would have liked not to have to move customers, but their safety was and remains paramount.”

He went on to say that the staff had worked “above and beyond” to ensure that guests found the accommodations to suit their needs, which aside from “one or two” with “more specific needs”, was done very quickly.

Mr Forrest said the problem was compounded by the “severe” shortage of properties in the Braintree area.

He also told the Mirror that a property has been found for Nick and his family, and that they are expected to move in later this month.

Nick said it was the first time the family were aware of such a property when we informed him.

He later said the couple ended the rental with Home Group and found a house through council, with a move-in date later that week.

A spokesperson for Braintree District Council said: “We cannot comment on individual cases, however, we continue to support Home Group to find alternative and suitable housing options for their tenants.”

A spokesperson for the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that fire crews have visited Riverside Place 11 times since February 2020.

“Six of the incidents were false alarms or required no further action, two were small fires – in a stairwell and garbage shed – which were quickly extinguished, one was internal flooding and crews were isolated the food, one was to release a person locked in an elevator and one was to help the ambulance service, ”they said.

The spokesperson added, “We are working with the Housing Association to help them resolve the issues at Riverside Place in Braintree.”

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