Robert Doveston has been sleeping in his car since Christmas because his damp Sutton Coldfield house ‘making him ill’
An asthmatic council tenant says he has been sleeping in his car since Christmas because his ‘freezing cold, damp house is making him ill.’ Robert Doveston says there is three inches of water under his bedroom floor, causing damp and mould in all the rooms. He believes the problem stems from his garden being next to a railway embankment where rainwater fills into a void which, once saturated, starts getting into his property.
He also claims the house, on Ebrook Road in Sutton Coldfield, is so cold the condensation has frozen his front door lock shut and that if he leaves milk out overnight in his kitchen, it freezes. Robert says he took his issues to a solicitor but that wishes he hadn’t now as he claims Birmingham City Council will no longer speak to him and that he cannot get hold of his solicitor. He says he is frustrated that he does not know the results of hearing on April 23.
When BirminghamLive spoke to Birmingham City Council, we were told that this is an ongoing legal case so the council could not comment as it is between their legal team and the tenant’s legal representatives.
“I’ve been sleeping in my car since Christmas Eve 2020 because I couldn’t take it anymore,” said Robert, who also suffers with COPD and uses a walking stick. “I can’t sleep in my bed because of the damp in my bed. When I step inside my home, I can’t breathe, it’s making me ill. “I moved in last September and only had a few minutes to look around due to Covid rules and I just thought it needed redecorating.”
Joanne Burgess, who lives in Brinnington, says that the issue could also be causing medical problems for her and her teenage daughter and five-month-old baby.
Joanne says that the issue has been going on for around four years, and has been confirmed by two contractors. She added: “They have seen the roof and it can’t be coming from above — our neighbours up there have no damp whatsoever. They sent two completely different people who both said it was rising damp — they both had a fresh pair of eyes to look at it.
Joanne has also contacted her MP, Navendu Mishra, about the problem — who in turn has spoken to Stockport Homes. The organisation has already carried out some re-plastering in the property, but Joanne says that more immediate action needs to be taken after the issue re-emerged.
She told the MEN : “I do not want to be here — I just don’t want to come home. It is really depressing, not nice. They need to sort it or move me. They know how much I am struggling. I understand there’s a pandemic on — but it needs to be sorted. It’s horrible.”
A Surrey NHS worker says she has endured more than two years of living with fungi spores and black mould which now covers almost every surface of her home. Larisa Orlova claims her landlord has left her to live in “hazardous conditions” for more than two years before fully acknowledging the issue and scheduling works to be carried out.
The housing company claims it was only made aware of an issue with a leaking water tank in September 2020. The 49-year-old emergency care nursing assistant said she felt as though she was in her “own horror movie, with black mould covering the walls” at the property in Hersham. She even had a mushroom growing from the ceiling earlier this year.
Larisa said the mould started appearing in the property in the autumn of 2018. She said she tried to report the issue to PA Housing using her online account, but claims she was not able to. Every time she tried to report it, she says she received the following message: “This is your responsibility. As a tenant, you are responsible for adequate heating and ventilation of your home. “She says she called PA Housing as well, but she explained that she was offered the same advice. She said she bought an expensive dehumidifier, but this only increased her electricity bills.
She said a surveyor was sent to the property in 2018 after she managed to report the mould issue and an extractor fan was installed in the bathroom, however this did not help. “The smell is musty and I am gasping for fresh air. You feel like you need fresh air and fresh oxygen because the air is filled with fungi spores.”
The mould has reportedly progressively spread to cover most of the property, and in the summer of 2019, Larisa said she had woodworms – larvae of wood-boring beetles – in the bathroom. She said she has had to throw numerous items away, including clothes and her son’s laptop, due to mould growing on them. She said the fungi is multi-coloured. A photograph of a digital hygrometer, an instrument used to measure humidity, shows the humidity in the property reached 87% at one point.
The damp climate and constant showers also wreak havoc on UK houses. Damp, condensation and mould are issues that can lead to property damage and may even affect the health of occupants.
The team at Allerton Damp Proofing have analysed a year of Google searches for damp solutions across the UK to reveal the areas where residents have the most issues with their property and damp.
Using the content research tool Ahrefs, the team found the most common questions online relating to damp, condensation and mould. They then analysed these in Google Keyword Planner to calculate the number of people who searched for damp-related problems and solutions over the past year across the UK.
Bradford was ranked 17th in the list with 47,546 people experiencing issues with damp this past year.
London was ranked first, with 1,266,656 residents having issues with damp, mould and condensation.
Birmingham is second, with 227,537 people experiencing issues this past year. This is followed by Bristol with 152,955 searches and Liverpool, with 110,354 searches.
Leeds was ninth with 87,953 people experiencing issues this past year.
Families with young children say they are being forced to live in ‘disgusting’ mould and damp-infested homes because the council won’t rehouse them despite doctors advising it.
Tenants in Essex have been complaining to their landlord Thurrock Council for years but authorities fail to properly deal with the issues.
The council often pays for mould washes to be carried out, but tenants say black spores grow back soon after and one environmental hygienist says they are actually making the problem worse. Reports by surveyors regularly deny there is an issue or blame residents for mould, accusing them of failing to properly ventilate and heat properties or exacerbating the problem by hanging out wet clothes or using tumble dryers. This means the root cause of the damp and mould is not remediated, say tenants, who are spending a fortune in regularly replacing their fungus-covered belongings, including furniture and children’s toys.
Ms Easter, who is ‘petrified’ of her children getting sick, has provided letters to the council from Hope’s play therapist and her own doctor explaining the mould may exacerbate her allergic rhinitis. ‘They just ignore it all. They don’t care,’ she said. ‘It’s been awful. Especially when I kept finding all of my belongings completely covered in mould,’ she said. ‘I just burst into tears because I thought “I can’t keep buying new stuff”. It’s very depressing.
Unsure where to turn, Ms Easter has now got a solicitor involved. An independent surveyor’s report has listed numerous construction issues as the cause of the mould, such as old, damaged windows, inappropriate extraction devices and loose and damaged cladding that could be allowing water to get into the properties.
Croydon Council has been accused of a “cover up” after not releasing the findings of an investigation into awful housing conditions in South Norwood.
A light was shone on shocking conditions at a block of council-owned flats in Regina Road by an ITV News report which opened up a wider conversation about living standards across the UK. The flats were so riddled with damp and mould that they were described as ”unfit for human habitation”. The worst conditions were in two flats, which are on top of each other and where a leak was identified as a mains leak from a copper pipe. Residents of the Regina Road flats claim that they have complained to the council about issues in their block for years.
The council was forced to commission an independent investigation into the unacceptable conditions and just what went wrong. The authority is blaming the pre-election period, also known as purdah, where publicity that could influence voters should not be issued. But the council’s Conservative opposition thinks the council is trying to hide the findings of the report, which will now not be released before local elections on May 6.
The council spokesperson said that the pre-election period “prevents the council publishing information from the report at this time” but will take action to improve housing services.
The Housing Ombudsman has launched an investigation into “disgusting” social housing conditions after ITV News reports revealed damp and mould was widespread throughout the UK.
Following an initial report on “unliveable” conditions in a number of homes in the London borough of Croydon, ITV News was “inundated” with “hundreds and hundreds” of examples. ITV News investigations have found there is a “growing problem with severe mould and damp” throughout the UK, with councils often not dealing with residents’ complaints.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said mould and damp in someone’s home can have a “significant” impact on their health and their life chances. He said he’s also “concerned that we are not seeing cases where we could help, and want to investigate further into this issue”. He said he wants to use new powers to look “in-depth at the response of social landlords to damp and mould issues”.
The Ombudsman wants to publish the findings of its investigation by autumn, and aims to “make far-reaching recommendations that promote greater understanding of the complexity of tackling damp and mould and share best practice across the sector”.
A tenant has been living with damp, mould and even mushrooms for almost a year.
Michael Sandilands, who lives in supported living accommodation on Oldham Road in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, due to having mild autism and Asperger’s as well as epilepsy has been attempting to move out. He says that his flat is ‘falling apart’ because of the damp and mould which he says is largely cause by a leak and broken ventilator fan.
Landlords, Halo Housing Association, based in Blackburn, said they have carried out investigation works and repairs, but ‘completely understand Michael’s frustration’. Michael said: “It’s like everything is falling apart because there’s too much damp and mould in this flat. The handles are coming off the windows because there’s too much water.
“If I’m truly honest it’s affected my health a little bit because I have asthma and it’s caused a lot of coughing. I want to move but I’m getting nowhere.”
Michael added that maintenance workers from Halo had continually painted over the damp, causing it to reappear and had only removed the one big mushroom from the bathroom leaving other smaller ones. He also said the ventilator fan is broken as it has a hole in the back and said he has been in contact with the environmental health services and the Citizens Advice Bureau about his situation.
A mum who was forced to live with rampant mould, leaks and damages in her council flat with her two young boys says she felt like screaming with joy when she was offered a new home.
It comes after an ITV News investigation into the “unliveable” council housing conditions some have endured during lockdown – and at least dozens of phone calls from Fransoy Hewitt and her neighbours to their landlord Croydon Council. Fransoy’s flat in Regina Road, Croydon, was so damaged by mould, damp and leaks, that she and her two sons, aged five and seven, were forced to cook, eat, play and sleep in a small bedroom, the only undamaged room.
She told ITV News earlier in March: “I just feel like I’m going to kill myself if I continue like that.” Since the broadcast and publication of ITV News’ story on Monday, the council has offered the mum-of-three a permanent two-bedroom house. Fransoy, who moves into her new home on Monday, described what went through her mind when she was told she was going to get the property: “I couldn’t believe my luck. I wanted to scream, like, ‘oh my god!'” Asked how it felt to open the door to the house, she said: “It feels amazing. I actually can’t believe it… It feels great.” On the state of the property, she said: “I actually checked it when I came. I was like, ‘No mould, no leak, oh my god! Luck!'”