War of words erupts over tenant’s mouldy home: 'We made a mistake'

It's boiled down to a bitter battle over a bathroom wall.

A real estate agent has hit back at a couple in Melbourne who claim a leak in their bathroom has been “eating away at the drywall”.

It’s been 12 months since Joe and Amber Powell moved to Footscray with their two young kids and noticed that their two-bedroom property was overrun with black mould, Nine News reports.

They say the leak has caused a full-blown infestation.

“There is mould on the skirting boards, walls, in the kitchen and on the ceiling,” Joe told the publication. “It’s on every other part of our apartment, every window in the bathroom and the kids’ window, everywhere. It’s a safety issue.”

The mouldy bathroom wall with a large hole inside the Footscray home.
The Powell family says mould has eaten away at their bathroom wall. Source: Nine News

The couple went on to claim they’ve had multiple tradies come to the house but there’s been no resolution. In the meantime they’ve been forced to buy several dehumidifiers to cope with the mouldy situation.

“They are about $120 each and we have had to buy three of them now,” he said. “That’s also while trying to afford to re-buy things for our living room. We can’t handle it.”

Real estate agent claims 'pushback' from tenants

However according to the real estate agent which manages the property, there’s another side to the story after the Powell’s first reported the issue in May 2022.

“We got a plumber out immediately to rectify the leak, we got mould cleaners out there to clean up the mould, and they [the couple] were reimbursed for damage to their clothes from the mould,” managing director of Linage Property Management Ben Lindblom told Yahoo News Australia.

Unfortunately a “human error” was then made. One which left Mr Lindblom “absolutely mortified”.

Joe and Amber Powell with their two children in a pram.
Joe and Amber Powell moved into the Footscray rental in March 2022. Source: Nine News

“We made a mistake,” Mr Lindblom said. “We accidentally marked this job as complete in our software system in June before the holes were fixed, which was completely our fault and we take full responsibility for that.”

Yet despite the oversight, the real estate agent didn’t hear anything further from the family, apart from more water leaks which were repaired as soon as possible – until Mr Lindblom contacted them with a lease renewal in early March.

“They said yes we would [like a new lease] and there was no mention then that this was still an ongoing issue,” he said. It wasn’t until a week or so later that the couple flagged the situation, prompting the real estate agency to act.

“We have had plumbers out there again because they were saying there was another leak but no other leak was found in the property,” Mr Lindbolm claimed to Yahoo. “We also didn't know anything about them buying humidifiers. If they’d brought that to our attention we would have had the owners reimburse them.”

Since then, he says the tenants “keep pushing back” tradespeople.

A series of photos of the bathroom wall with holes in it.
Photos taken from inside the Melbourne home reveal damage to the bathroom wall. Source: Nine News

“We had a plumber that was supposed to attend today for a pressure test to make sure all leaks have been rectified from previous work, but they cancelled our plumber saying he was rude,” the managing director said. He also reserved an appointment for another mould cleaning but the couple pushed it back by more than a week.

Describing the now-public battle as “frustrating”, Mr Lindblom says he’s withdrawn a planned rent increase and has offered the family free accommodation at an Airbnb while mould cleaning is being carried out.

“We made a mistake, we own the mistake, that’s on us, but since it was brought to our attention we’ve been working as fast as we can to get this fixed,” he said.

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