Maree and Tom O'Grady in a fire-damaged room of their rental property in Main Street, Wooli.
Maree and Tom O'Grady in a fire-damaged room of their rental property in Main Street, Wooli. JoJo Newby

Dumped after blaze

TOM and Maree O'Grady of Alstonville feel they have been wronged.

It's not the fact their fully furnished rental property on Main St, Wooli was severely damaged by fire when a three-year-old boy decided to play with matches in his bedroom on November 15.

They're thankful no one was hurt.

It's not that the tenants kept a dog when they weren't supposed to.

The O'Grady's problem is with North Coast Community Housing (NCCH), the company which terminated its two-year lease of the premises six months prematurely because the house was "uninhabitable".

"It was their tenant that did the damage and we're being punished," Mr O'Grady said.

"I'm not asking them to pay rent while the house is being fixed."

Instead, Mr O'Grady would like to see a resumption of the lease when the house is repaired, possibly at the end of January.

He said his insurance would pay him for lost income while repairs were being done.

"I don't think the NCCH should be able to walk away ... we just don't think it's ethical," he said.

Mr and Mrs O'Grady received their termination letter from NCCH housing services manager Colin Jones on Christmas Eve and had not been able to establish if their property would be considered in the future.

The Daily Examiner tried to contact NCCH, which is partially funded by the NSW Department of Housing, by phone and email yesterday but the office is closed until Tuesday.

The couple say they hold no grudge against the family whose child set fire to the home.

"Apparently he was playing with matches and his bedroom caught alight and then he just walked out of his room and shut the door behind him without saying anything," Mrs O'Grady said.

"It was only that the father smelt something and had a look that they became aware of it ... it could have been much worse."

On top of his rental concerns, Mr O'Grady is concerned his house and contents insurance is going to leave him short changed.

He said fire and water damaged all but one room of the three-bedroom cottage but much of the damage had not been acknowledged by his insurance company, Crawford and Co.

"I've had two builders come through and say we should gut it and start again, but their builders have missed a heap of stuff," he said.

He said the company had approved a quote for about $38,000 repairs but he'd been given the impression from other builders that it would be closer to $60,000.

Mr O'Grady, a professional fisherman by trade, nominated several items not listed in the company-appointed builder's quote, including roof structure throughout the house, water damage to kitchen walls, cupboards and floor coverings.

It was not the first time the O'Gradys have had trouble with their Wooli "retirement investment".

Two years ago the couple had to replace most of the furniture and carpets in the house after another tenant (not from NCCH) allowed her cats to live inside.



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