Belfast Telegraph

Mum’s video of snow in hall forces Housing Executive to replace door... two years on

By Brett Campbell

A single mum in Co Down has slammed the Housing Executive for only agreeing to replace her front and back doors after she posted an online video of snow inside her home.

Sarah Docherty (37) from Comber has been feeling the cold for nearly five years due to the poor quality of her front door which has deteriorated rapidly with each passing winter.

After waking up to discover lying snow in her hallway she gave up trying to convince maintenance inspectors at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) that she needed a fit-for-purpose door.

But after waking up to discover that the Beast from the East and Storm Emma had invited themselves inside, she decided to change tack.

"I couldn't believe it when I woke up and saw snow falling inside my house. I began to record it because I was in so much shock," Ms Docherty said.

"I have a smidgen of experience at editing videos so I decided to post it on YouTube."

The video, which opens with the words "Beast from the East and Storm Emma meet at my front door and let themselves in" features still images of newspapers and duvets which she stuffed inside gaps between the door in a vain attempt to keep the biting wind and billowing snow at bay.

In a tongue-in-cheek ending the amateur director singles out the Housing Executive as deserving a special thanks "for making this film possible".

"Still waiting for a call out, still waiting for a weather-proof front door," she added.

The full-time humanities student, who plans to begin studying for a degree in film studies and production at Queen's University in September, said she applied her basic editing skills to provoke a response.

"I never distorted the image, I slowed it down slightly to make sure the snow was visible and I added the credits," she said.

"It's a very amateurish video but it seems to have done the trick. I'm just so glad that I caught it on camera because it's actual proof and means they have to do something."

The mother-of-one said she was driven to make the video by a mixture of emotions.

"I did it out of a deep sense of frustration but I can't deny it was also a humorous and slightly desperate attempt to get the Housing Executive's attention," she added.

"Part of the sadness is that it worked - I have no doubt this is the only reason I am getting a new door.

"Not everybody has the ability to upload these videos but it would be fantastic if they did."

Ms Docherty first complained that the front door was not fit for purpose almost two years ago, but instead of getting a replacement, NIHE arranged for draft excluders to be fitted.

"They aren't a long-term solution because they erode so quickly," she said.

The former private renter described her experience as a NIHE tenant as "horrific" and criticised the organisation for "unfairly" distributing resources.

"There are people who know how to get things out of them and people who don't - it seems the more polite you are the less you get," Ms Docherty said.

"They make you fight for everything and it just wears you out. You get so worn down from complaining all the time.

"My internal doors at one point had expanded and wouldn't open or close properly - it was a fire hazard so I phoned to let them know but I was told it was my responsibility to deal with that so they've never been fixed either."

The cold weather earlier this month caused Sarah's oil levels to plummet while her electric bill soared. She said this caused her a lot of stress which could have been avoided.

"I'm down to my last unit of heating oil which I have to stretch out until Easter so I've been forced into reducing the amount of times I can put the heating on," she said.

"I'm wearing two or three jumpers and have to rely on an electric fire and the immersion which is quite expensive.

"I would never have had to use the extra electricity if I didn't have to use the extra oil."

With reports of another cold snap on the way, Sarah and her son Lucas have been left shuddering at the prospect of having to endure more freezing weather conditions.

"NIHE has been in touch to confirm that the front and back door will be replaced, but it could take up to six weeks," she said.

"I will have to do what I can and keep wearing layers."

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive has confirmed Sarah will get new front and back doors after an inspection by a maintenance officer last week.

"All external doors are usually replaced in our homes under a specific external maintenance scheme," they said.

"However if doors are in poor condition we may replace them on request, following an inspection to determine their condition. The new doors have been ordered and the work is scheduled to be completed over the coming weeks."

Belfast Telegraph

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