Renter’s horror as roof ‘full of asbestos’ falls on her head

The mum claims a builder advised her the entire house needs to be knocked down.

A Queensland real estate agent has finally agreed to reimburse a mum who was forced to move out of her rental property after the roof fell on her exposing her family to deadly asbestos.

Brianna Cottrell, who has two young children aged 1 and 6, had been fighting The Real Estate People for compensation after she had to terminate the lease on the property due to a long list of problems.

The 25-year-old moved into the property in Oakey — about 28km from Toowoomba in Queensland — in April, after being unable to find any other suitable accommodation for her young family. She wasn't able to view the home before moving in, and said that as soon as she arrived, she noticed it didn't look anything like the images in the listing — which she later found out were years old.

Queensland mother of two Brianna Cottrell with her children.
Queensland mother of two Brianna Cottrell says she was forced to live in an dangerously run-down home for months. (Source: Supplied)

The home also stank so heavily of "cat urine" that she didn't feel comfortable leaving her young son is his designated bedroom. She also claims the carpet was dotted with faeces.

Almost every room in Queensland rental damaged, mum says

Virtually every room was damaged in one way or another, with issues ranging from leaking ceilings, rotted structures, to holes in the roof everywhere. She said the cement floor had split resulting in "a massive, two to three-inch hole in the carpet".

"I shampooed the carpet that many times it's not funny," Cottrell told Yahoo News Australia. "It doesn't go anywhere. The smell is ridiculous. I've got a curtain up so that it can't be smelt in the rest of the house but as soon as you open it, you can smell it."

She said she had told the real estate agent about the many leaks in the house numerous times.

"The 'handyman' came out and did the dodgiest patch-up jobs. They got someone to come out because the roof was bubbling in the bathroom, and all they did was paint over it. It didn't fix the water damage in the roof — nothing."

Bri Beccaris's Queensland rental.
Asbestos showered the mum after heavy rainfall. (Source: Supplied)

Cottrell uses the term handyman loosely, as she sincerely doubts the authenticity of the individual that was sent to repair the damages. The young mum — who pays $300 per week in rent — claims the man who arrived didn't display any relevant identification, wasn't wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), and "honestly, I could've done a better job myself".

Though the mum repeatedly contacted her property agent via both telephone and email, she said no effective repairs ever took place during the course of her tenancy and communication was scarce at best.

While all of the issues were apparent from the onset, Cottrell said she hadn't been in a position to move — that is, until the structural damage and leaks became so pronounced she had no other choice, fearing for the safety of both herself and her young children.

Bri Beccaris's Queensland rental.
When her agency supplied a handyman, the "patch-up job" meant the family couldn't properly use their front door. (Source: Supplied)

Devastating turn after heavy rain

Last week Cottrell says things took a turn for the worst. Having been warned by a builder previously the property was "full of asbestos", Cottrell said she became worried during recent heavy rainfall that she may soon become even more exposed to it — a concern that was quickly realised.

"It all fell on me after I opened the front door," Cottrell said, pointing to the miraculous fact she wasn't holding her baby son at the time.

"I got drenched with water and all the debris, because as you'll see in the photos there was that much crap up there. My eyes also got full of it all — I'm still pulling stuff out of my eyes today."

After days of back and forth correspondence with her agents, during which Cottrell claims she was ignored multiple times, she was told to "call the SES" to fix the leaks in the room as a "trade wasn't going to get up there in the rain".

The renter was then forced to move out of her home for a week — which was uncompensated — and after she begged her property manager to free her from her lease, Cottrell says she was met with resistance.

Bri Beccaris's Queensland rental.
The home is filled with holes in the floors, walls and roof. Water is seen here dripping from the ceiling. (Source: Supplied)

Eventually, she decided she'd organise for the asbestos to be removed herself, which she said took "a matter of minutes". When the professionals arrived, they had been wearing hazmat protective gear, Cottrell noted, with the job being completed quickly later on that day.

Only after the asbestos was removed did the agency send a builder to assess the damage.

"It felt pretty s**t," Cottrell said. "Considering I had been saying it for the past week and I stressed my concern about it collapsing because it was so damaged and rotted and nothing had been done.

"When the builder came yesterday, she said that the whole house just needs to be gutted down to a frame and rebuilt."

Bri Cottrell Queensland rental.
Cottrell claims the real estate agency only ever provided "dodgy patch-up jobs". (Source: Supplied)

Fight for compensation

Cottrell explained she was eventually released from her rental agreement after lengthy negotiations with the agency and will move out next week. But she believes their refusal, along with the landlord, to action even the simplest of requests should see her compensated, including a reimbursement of rent.

"Now with Christmas coming up unfortunately they [the kids] are going to have to miss out, because we have to move three weeks beforehand," she said. "But on the up side, we are out and are going to a much better home, and we will all be able to actually start getting on track again."

Compensation eventually awarded

Since being contacted by Yahoo News Australia, The Real Estate People, the agency responsible for managing the property, have offered to compensate Cottrell for the damages and have offered to pay her future bond at her next property and cover the moving costs.

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