housing laws | 

Mum-of-two cared for dying dad in childhood home now told she has to leave

‘The home has been in the family for a period of 30 years and so holds incredible sentimental value to them’

Michelle Hughes with her sons Reilly and Cadain outside their home in Newtownabbey

Allison MorrisBelfast Telegraph

When Michelle Hughes discovered her father dead on the bathroom floor of her childhood home, she admits that she spent the next few months struggling with the enormity of her loss.

The mother-of-two had been caring for her sick father in his Housing Executive home.

Ms Hughes had been in a private rental home, but moved into her father’s house in Bawnmore in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, a home where she had spent her childhood years.

She has since been told she will have to leave the property as she had no right to the tenancy.

“I have always felt safe in this house, it’s my childhood home and my family are all around me, I have help and support here,” she said.

When her 76-year-old father died in November 2019, Michelle moved permanently into the family home with her two sons, Cadain who is 12 and six-year-old Reilly.

Due to current housing laws, she had no right to succession and had been told she would have to vacate the property.

Originally, she was given a temporary rent payment card, but when around a year ago a permanent rent card arrived in the post, she assumed that the tenancy dispute had been resolved and she would be allowed to stay in the four-bedroom property.

“The house was my dad’s so an older man’s house, and it needed a lot of decorating,” she said.

“I thought once I got the rent card that meant we were okay, so I started to decorate.

“Everything needed changed and I put a lot of money into the house.

“My mental health wasn’t great after finding my daddy, so I needed a lot of support and living here really helped because my mother is nearby and my brother just down the street. I know all the neighbours and they know me.”

Ms Hughes’s son Cadain suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and severe anxiety.

“The rented property I was in was full of damp and mould. Cadain was constantly sick, but he hasn’t had any illness or chest infections since I’ve moved back home.

“I felt like my son was being discriminated against for having the wrong type of disability. I was told if he was autistic that it would have counted towards my housing points but because he has other complex needs it does not. Cadain isn’t in school at the minute, we are still trying to find him a school.

“With his OCD he needs his own bedroom. He’s very anxious about the future, any move would just set him back further.

“I don’t understand the thinking behind this. I’ve been told there is no property in this area available for me to be housed in, and yet I have to move out of my home.

“I’m going to put in temporary accommodation and have to be housed eventually anyway so this all seems like such a waste of time, money and effort.

“I’m a model tenant, there has never been any issue with me and there never will be, this is a safe place for me and my sons.

“The uncertainty of it is so stressful.”

Last week following legal proceedings the Housing Executive agreed a stay on eviction with Ms Hughes told she can remain in the property until February but then must leave.

Sean Dunlea of Phoenix Law, who represents Ms Hughes, said the case “only serves but to highlight how cold and formulaic the NIHE’s approach can be in instances like these”.

He said: “In this case we have Ms Hughes, a single mother of two children, one of whom has disabilities.”

He said that until his passing in November 2019, she had acted as a carer for her father.

“The home in question is one which has been in the family for a period of 30 years and so holds incredible sentimental value to them,” he said.

“However, despite all the above, the NIHE did not deem these circumstances exceptional and would rather have sought immediate possession of Ms Hughes’ home during a cost-of-living crisis and in the run-up to the Christmas period.

“Following a settlement, we can only hope that the NIHE are able to obtain a new property for our client and her family prior to the expiry of her stay period.”

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: “This was an appeal against the decision of the County Court to grant us an order for possession of this property.

“It was resolved on the basis of a compromise reached between the parties.

“We agreed to a 16-week stay of the order so that the family can remain in the property.

“This is in recognition of the family’s circumstances and the time of year.

“If the appellant requires advice and assistance regarding their housing needs, we would ask them to speak to the local Housing Executive office.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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