An unholy row has erupted over a church-owned cottage that a young mother says is making her two children ill.

Amy Harty, 27, moved into the house near St Andrew’s church in North Weald in November with her three-year-old daughter Rose and one-year-old son Teddy.

Within minutes of handing over the deposit on the Vicarage Lane house, which is owned by the parochial church council, she noticed rodent droppings on the floor and in kitchen drawers.

After a week there, she said the toilet overflowed for the first time, flooding water into the kitchen and making the floor so soft she put her foot through it.

The nursery nurse said: “The toilet has overflowed on three occasions and there was a dip in the floor where one area got more drenched than others.

“My foot went straight through the MDF on top of the floorboards to the kitchen.

“I’ve been scared to use the toilet since.”

She said that despite telling the church's estate agent about this and a host of other problems from a broken oven to damp, none had been fully put right.

She added: “My children have had sickness and diarrhoea six times each since living here.

“My GP said you can’t live with an infestation of vermin. I’ve trapped 20 in one week.”

She said she wanted to move out, but is now locked in a dispute over her deposit, as she has withheld part of her rent over the issues.

Steve Saunders, the church’s estate agent, said: “We’ve dealt with everything as it’s come up, but it seems whatever we do is not enough.

“We’ve had someone in to deal with the mice.”

He said the toilet was blocked with nappies and baby wipes, which Miss Harty denies, and has sent a handyman to the home to cover the hole in the floor.

He added: “Before Miss Harty moved in, we had new windows put in upstairs, a new back door, a new central heating system and it’s been re-wired.

“We’re not talking about a hovel.”