HDC Cleaver Heights tenant fears home threatened by landslip

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Antonia Batson shows the cracks at her Cleaver Heights, Arima home. She says the cracks are as a result of the land the house is built on, is slowly slipping away. – Jensen La Vende

AN Arima woman is calling on the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to act quickly to repair her home and protect it from land slippage.

Antonia Batson, a tenant at the Cleaver Heights development, told Newsday since moving in two years ago, she began noticing cracks in the walls and around her house. She said she alerted the HDC to the issue and several others two years ago, and HDC officials visited two months ago.

Her townhouse is the last house near the end of a slope, with a drain at the back. Batson said she could not speak for her neighbours, or say whether they had complained to the HDC, but pointed out cracks in their walls that could be seen from her home. The neighbours were not at home when Newsday visited.

During the HDC’s visit, Batson said, all her concerns were documented. They included broken floor tiles, missing ceiling tiles and a leaking roof, the land slippage and poor plumbing, which meant she and her family had to condemn one of their two toilets, as it backs up whenever it’s flushed.

In response, HDC said it was “aware of this situation and is actively working to get the repairs done. We estimate that within a month work will begin to repair the cracks, redo the plumbing and replace the tiles.

“But before today the HDC was unaware of the land slippage even though several technical personnel visited Ms Batson,” the HDC said in response to questions sent by Newsday.

HDC added that Batson’s concern about the land slipping is isolated to Batson.

Batson said the landslip is causing the cracks in her home and it will take an estimated $100,000 to erect a retaining wall to rectify the problem. She said her and her husband were considering building the wall themselves, so they had got an estimate for the job.

She said when she told HDC technical officials this, they told her the HDC lacked the resources to construct the wall.

But the HDC said the issue of the land slipping was never brought to its attention even when members of the technical team visited Batson’s home and did a walk-through, recording the issues she had raised.

In an e-mail to Batson in February, the HDC said a team visited and noted that the apron slab had separated from the house. An apron slab is an impermeable surface built around a house to prevent water from soaking into the ground beneath the house.

The HDC said the cracks in the apron slab “is expected over time, especially in situations where the slab may not be connected to the building.”

Batson said: “What I keep telling them is that these cracks are caused because the land is slipping and they should do something about it now, before it gets worse. Some of these cracks were not here when we first moved in. The land is slipping!”

The HDC confirmed there were hairline cracks, which it said are non-structural in nature, adding there is surface erosion “due to the action of surface run-off that can be mitigated by properly grassing the slopes.”The slopes to the back and side of Batson’s home are grassed. Closer to the drain at the back is a bamboo patch and tall grass. At the side is well maintained grass.

Batson said all she wants is for her home to be protected from slipping away by building a retaining wall, and repairs to correct the other issues she has repeatedly raised with the HDC since moving in.