Reason couple were forced to live in horse trailer
A Gold Coast couple have told of the trauma of having to live in a horse float for more than two weeks in freezing conditions with no power or running water after their rental was deemed unsafe to live in.
"It's very cold, especially at night, so we throw a tarp over the top of the float to try to keep warm. It helps a bit," a tearful Natalie Mudge said.
"We've had a couple of meltdowns in the float and some nights, we cry ourselves to sleep."
The nightmare began for Ms Mudge and partner Joe Thomas when a certified mould inspector's report showed the house they were renting in Castle Hill Drive at Gaven had active microbial growth and mould.
Ms Mudge, an asthmatic, said she and one of her five children had been struggling with poor health since they moved into the Gaven rental. This was confirmed in writing by a doctor.
The family were given permission to break their lease and moved out, but a claim then lodged by the agent meant the bond was put on hold.
The rental agency told the Bulletin two independent tests for mould gave contradictory conclusions.
Mr Thomas, a cabinet-maker contracted to luxury boat builder Riviera, and Ms Mudge are now counting down the nights in the float at Clagiraba until they can move into a new rental on July 10. But they will have to replace all their beds, mattresses, couches and other household items they say are covered in mould.
The couple say when they gave two weeks' notice on June 30 to the First National real estate agent managing the Gaven home, a claim to withhold their $2600 bond was lodged immediately.
The couple had a 12-month lease. They paid rent up to June 21 and were instructed to pay until June 28, which they said they would honour.
Ms Mudge said the family decided to move out of the rental on Monday, June 17, after a report by mould technicians from AMC Ozone Treatment found the house was "not a safe, healthy environment for the occupants and we advise the occupants to seek alternative accommodation until such time as the building materials have been replaced and ozone treatment and remediation concluded".
Ms Mudge said: "We took our kids to stay with family, and Joe and I moved into the horse float with our dogs, Yogi, an American bulldog, and Billie, our bull arab.
"We had to pay rent of $650 for that week because we still had a lease and we battled to find anywhere else to rent with the two dogs."
The 2.8m long and 1.7m wide float is parked in a paddock in Beaudesert-Nerang Rd. The land is being rented by a friend.
"She's let us park it at the bottom of the property because our dogs don't get along," Ms Mudge said.
"We shower every now and again in the house and we cook some microwave dinners when we can.
"I've never been homeless before, never in my entire life. I suffer from anxiety and depression, so it's been worse these past two weeks."
Her partner was close to tears when he spoke about the family's situation.
"I am at the point of losing it," he said.
One of the doctor's certificates obtained by the Bulletin confirms her son was unable to attend Nerang State High School for two months because of flu-like symptoms and lethargy, which the GP said had not responded to antibiotics.
The doctor said that since the family moved out of the Gaven house, the teenager had "improved considerably and is back at school''.
The certificate said: "An environmental cause for his symptoms cannot be excluded."
The AMC report says the property was found to have active microbial growth.
"Some mould spores produce a mycotoxin (toxic substance produced by some fungi) which can be immuno-compromising and/or allergenic and/or mycotoxin producers," it says.
The report identifies musty odours and visible mould throughout the home on door frames, high glass windows, window frames, timber furniture and inside the split system air conditioner
"Moisture readings taken throughout the home detected a wet kitchen shelf under the sink, along with visible water damage. Wet door frames and architraves were also detected in the main bathroom, laundry and toilet, along with wet flooring," it says.
Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe account to raise $5000 for them to buy second-hand beds, couches and mattresses.
"I just want the basics to get us living again," Ms Mudge said. "I will hot wash our clothes and bedding, and throw out our shoes that have mould on them."
Ms Mudge and Mr Thomas said they were upset the owner of the property and the managing agent were not taking any responsibility or returning their calls.
"We forwarded the AMC report to the real estate agent, who was unsympathetic," Mr Thomas said.
Lisa Keevers, operations manager for First National Real Estate Centrepoint at Mermaid Waters, said the Gaven house had had two independent tests for mould.
"The reports provided contradictory conclusions," she said.
She confirmed a request by Ms Mudge and Mr Thomas to break the lease had been granted.
"All penalties, along with two weeks' rent, have been waived,'' she said.
"Several issues breaching section 26 of the tenants' lease agreement were noted at an inspection and due to the tenant vacating, as a precaution, a claim has been placed on the bond," Ms Keevers said.
The bond remained with the RTA but she said she "anticipated'' it to be returned to the tenants after successful execution of section 37 of the General Tenancy Agreement.
"Centrepoint regrets any distress but a final inspection of the property, post-vacation of the premises, has not yet taken place," she said.