Families today spoke of their desperation to return to their fire-damaged Aberdeen homes after being stuck in limbo for almost a year.
Chris and Vicky Innes and neighbours Myra and Bryan Milne have been living in temporary accommodation since fire broke out in Bucksburn’s Watchman Brae last February.
The blaze started at 14 Watchman Brae but spread to neighbouring homes – the Inneses on one side and the Milnes on the other.
Since then, the couples have been unable to move forward with repairs until the middle house is made watertight.
However, that can’t be done because of ongoing wrangles involving the owners of number 14, Aberdeen City Council and insurance firms.
In the 11 months since the fire, number 14 has become infested with pigeons due to a gaping hole in the roof.
Chris, 43, said: “In order to get our house fixed we need the house where the fire started to be repaired so it will not cause any issue with our house once it has been completed.
“We have tried contacting the homeowners many times but we’ve had no luck. Our insurers are now handling it.
“We’ve also tried reaching out to the council but we keep hitting walls. It feels like we’re never going to get our family home back.”
It’s believed the repairs would take a minimum of eight weeks to complete.
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Myra, 55, and Bryan, 56, are facing the same problem contacting the home’s owners.
She said: “Our insurers and ourselves have tried to contact them but they haven’t responded to any of our communications.
“We want to try to get permission to enter their house and carry out the required repairs to allow us to move home.”
The Evening Express managed to track down one of the named owners of number 14 but he refused to comment on the issue.
We were unable to contact the other owner.
A spokesman for Zurich Insurance – Chris and Vicky’s insurer – said the firm is currently looking into a “legal resolution” for the families.
He added: “This is an understandably stressful and upsetting situation for the Inneses and their neighbours in the other property – made all the worse by not being able to trace the owners of the property where the fire began.
“It is unusual not to be able to commence work to repair a damaged property because of a situation like this which is why we’ve brought solicitors in to examine all our legal options for getting this resolved.
“We’re poised to begin work to get the Inneses back in their home as quickly as we can, so hope we can find a legal resolution to this promptly.”
Vicky, 34, mum of eight-year-old Scott, is expecting her second child and has said her only wish is to move back into Watchman Brae.
She said: “You start to wonder if it’s ever going to happen. We get asked all the time what’s going on with the house and we don’t know what to tell them.
“We’re just desperate to move back. It’s been long enough and they just keep pushing back the dates.”
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “Aberdeen City Council has jurisdiction where a property is found to be a danger to the public.
“The property has been inspected by building standards staff and found that it does not present a risk to the public.
“To assist the neighbours, the council sought permission from the owner to allow the insurer of the neighbouring properties to carry out necessary repairs.
“Any further action sits with the insurers.”
More than 40 firefighters battled the blaze as it ripped through the house on Watchman Brae in February last year.
A total of 44 firefighters were at the scene and fought to stop the fire spreading to adjoined properties.
One elderly woman was treated for slight smoke inhalation at the scene.
A total of 66 homes in the area were also left without power for a time after the fire caused one of the fuses in the local substation to blow.