A COUPLE are facing the heartache of having to repair their former home after their tenants left a trail of destruction.

Audrey and Tony Merone were devastated to find their three-bedroom semi-detached house on Bates Avenue, in Cockerton, Darlington, had been wrecked by their tenants who had stopped paying the rent last Christmas.

The couple, whose tenants have now been evicted, were horrified to find their former home was riddled with damp - due to tenants not opening windows – and dog excrement covering the overgrown garden.

Wallpaper had also been ripped off, the bath screen smashed, and cupboard doors left hanging off.

The case comes just days after The Northern Echo reported that a flat in Gladstone Street, Darlington, had been trashed by a nightmare tenant, leaving landlords with a repair bill of more than £5,000.

Rubbish had been piled high in every room and the newly-fitted heaters were removed, along with the new water heater, and copper pipes. A number of needles and drug paraphernalia were also found in the property.

Mr and Mrs Merone, who are both 64, had lived in the Bates Avenue property for 15 years before moving out and putting the house up for rent in 2007.

The couple spent more than £5,000 getting the house ready for the tenants to move in and were hoping to use the rental income to fund their retirement and buy their dream cottage.

However, rent payments became scarce and, after they stopped in Christmas last year, the couple began eviction proceedings.

Mrs Merone said: “I feel like we have been abused. I feel like I was really silly for allowing it to get like this but I had absolutely no idea how bad it was.

“It was a family home. We are not professional property developers; we are just a couple who wanted to fund our retirement but in six years we have got nothing at all.

“We have Christian values and everybody has times when things are hard, so sometimes if they couldn’t make a payment we allowed them more time, but they have taken us for granted.”

Mr Merone, who served in the Army for 46 years, said: “There seems to be lots of rights for tenants but what about rights for the landlords?

“We all need to be aware and very careful who we put in. There are plenty of decent tenants out there and people like this make it harder for them.”