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Poor Housing Harms Health Of 20% Renters In England

Poor housing is harming the health of one in five renters in England, with mould, damp and cold the main triggers of sickness, a major survey by the housing charity Shelter has revealed.

Approximately 1.9m households could be suffering physical and mental problems as a result of poor housing conditions as well as uncertainty caused by struggles to pay the rent and repeated evictions, polling of over 3,000 private renters suggests. A quarter of all renters said they were affected by damp and mould and by being unable to heat their homes. They were three times more likely to say housing was harming their health than those without the problems. The study also detailed how almost one in four renters said their housing situation had left them feeling “stressed and anxious” since the start of the pandemic.

The findings came as councils warned that waiting lists for affordable housing are set to double next year to as many as 2.1m households. One in 10 of those in the queue have already been waiting for over five years. The Covid pandemic has dented housebuilding with at least 100,000 fewer homes built by 2023, according to the Local Government Association which anticipates rising demand in the coming months as the cost of living crisis helps drive up rent arrears and evictions.

 “The cost of poor housing is spilling out into overwhelmed GP surgeries, mental health services, and hours lost from work,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Polly Neate. “The new housing secretary must get a grip on the housing crisis and tackle a major cause of ill health. Listening to the calls flooding into our helpline there is no doubt that health and housing go hand in hand. Yet, millions of renters are living in homes that make them sick because they are mouldy, cold, unaffordable and grossly insecure.”

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Charles Dickens House: ‘It’s Like Living In Victorian-Era Housing’

Some residents of Charles Dickens House have compared living in the east London social housing block to the sort of life described in some of the author’s Victorian-era novels.

Many have complained about problems such as mould, leaks and vermin for over a decade, with a number saying the issues were affecting their health.

According to housing charity Shelter, one in five renters across England is harmed by the state of their home.

The housing authority said it was “working hard” to resolve the problems at the block.

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Care Worker Forced To Leave Home Because Of Rats, Damp And Mould

A tenant who has been living in hotels for three months while her housing association decanters her property might not be rehoused until Christmas.

Clarion Housing moved care worker, Louise Plunkett, into a hotel on July 7 after she was hospitalised with breathing problems while living among damp, mould, and vermin that was so bad, she had to sleep on her sofa for nine months. The 34-year-old Mitcham resident had been complaining to Clarion for almost a decade, but was getting nowhere with the housing association – which manages 125,000 properties across the UK and is Europe’s largest housing association.

Louise’s property is plagued with mice and rats, both dead and alive, that chew through her clothes, destroy her furniture and shred important documents. She had no choice but to move into her living room and salvage the little clothes she could and live out of a bin bag.

Clarion previously told MyLondon they had been in weekly communication with Louise since February 2021, and had apologised to her and paid compensation for a delay of services in the past. However, Louise denies that she ever received an apology and was paid just £25, which she believes was compensation from Clarion.

Louise says she is one of many Clarion residents who are being moved into hotels while the housing association decanters or completes repairs in properties. She told MyLondon: “This is not an isolating incident, this is taking place with every other resident that Clarion is taking control over – why are they failing? “You don’t get to sit at the table saying you are helping me yet I’ve got neighbours sitting in their property with damp and mould, I’m so angry about this. “The humiliation myself and other Clarion residents are being put through is disgusting, we can’t keep living like this. It’s inhumane.”

Louise still has to pay £575 rent per month despite not living there because of health risks. Every time Louise returns to her Mitcham property to clear out her possessions, she has terrifying dreams of the rats and mould she has lived among. She was transferred from a Mitcham hotel to another in Wimbledon after a series of unsafe incidents involving outsiders trying to get into her and other people’s rooms.

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Swansea Mum Struggling To Breathe In Mouldy Council Flat

A MUM-of-seven claims she is struggling to breathe in her mouldy council flat where damp has forced her to chuck Fout “£1,000 worth of ruined clothes and shoes”.

June Williams, 64, has demanded compensation from Swansea Council, as she’s fed up with “being fobbed off” and constantly having to wipe down walls with bleach.

She said: “There has been a mould issue ever since I first moved in. The kids were always ill when they were living with me. I have complained, and asked people to come out, but inspectors say it is just condensation, and I believed them, but I always thought something wasn’t right – they were fobbing me off. I’ve got damp issues in my bedroom on both walls, I wipe it down with bleach, but it comes back.”

The gran said that when she complained to the council about the mould, inspectors who visited told her that it was her fault for not opening windows, rather than being a damp issue. However she’s adamant the property is well-ventilated, but badly built. Several years ago the council did concede there was “rising damp in the living room, and they treated it.”

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Huddersfield Mum Living In A Damp And Mouldy Ant-Infested Council House

Unresolved damp and mould problems, insects, and a recent flood have made the house an unacceptable place to live and left her struggling with her mental health.

Claire, a mental health services volunteer, says she first reported the mould and damp in February this year. She said the damp team from Kirklees Housing came out to assess it, but that nothing has happened to fix the issues.

Claire told YorkshireLive: “I’ve got ants in my kitchen and living room. In my bedroom, because it got absolutely soaked from the flood – it just stinks of mould. “It’s a horrible damp smell. I’m just being passed back and forth and nothing’s really getting sorted – the situation is just getting worse. It’s just not nice to live in and it’s not nice when you have a daughter who suffers from asthma.”

Early in August, Claire’s problems were complicated when a burst pipe from her boiler flooded her house. “After it happened, I was told I had to stay in the property because they had nowhere else to put me and my two year old. It absolutely flooded my whole bedroom, flooring, clothes got ruined – it came through the ceiling of the living room, my sofa was soaked, my flooring was absolutely soaking,” she said. When the council had left that day after everything had flooded, they just kind of left me to it. I had to sort out emergency accommodation because the council wouldn’t help me, my housing officer wouldn’t help me. All they did was leave me a bag of rags to clean up with – that’s all the help I was given.”

Claire was given the property two years ago, and say she’s had issues with it from the beginning.

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Lambeth Mum Forced To Wait Months For Repairs To ‘Unsafe’ Council Home

Lambeth council estimated the repairs would take ‘four weeks’ but the mum-of-two has been waiting months.

Cliona Addison, 33, was living in a home with leaks, damp walls and broken tiles for almost a year. Before Lambeth council moved her and her two children into temporary accommodation in June. The tenant claims the council have not made contact with her since the family moved into the accommodation and does not know when she is expected to return home.

Earlier this year, Lambeth council told My London that repairs to Cliona’s home will begin “once the home is empty” and estimated it would take “four weeks to complete, subject to drying out.” Now, three months on, Cliona says that she is still waiting for repairs to be completed in her home and is still living in temporary accommodation.

Cliona told My London: “They haven’t assessed it. I don’t personally feel like they can move me back there and, if they do, it’s going to take a long time for it to get better. “No one has gone to assess the damage, only random plumbers and electricians who call [me] up. I don’t know who I’m supposed to turn to now?”

Cliona visited her Lambeth home two weeks ago and had to kick the door down as it was swollen due to the leaks. She said: “The house is so messed up and the door was so swollen. I had to kick the door to get it open, the door can’t close now. We couldn’t shut the door, I had to leave it unlocked.” The mum of two described feeling “insecure’’ as a result of living in her temporary accommodation. “I’ve not had a housing officer or a liaison call me… Nobody has contacted me whatsoever, they’ve just left me in temporary accommodation,” she claimed. “I’m desperate because I don’t want to wait until Winter. It’s going to get cold and wet and I’m worried about transferring all my stuff in the vans.”

Cliona moved into the Lambeth property as a council tenant in July 2019 and dealt with a leak just four months later. She said: “The bathroom light has plastic casing [and] was full of water. We realised when the light was flicking on and off. “The [resident living] underneath me said this has been ongoing before I moved in.”

As a result of the issues at her home, Cliona said she experienced a “breakdown” whilst her son suffered with throat issues “due to living in a wet, mouldy, damp flat for more than 18 months.” The family are still waiting for those repairs to be made to their home in Lambeth, three months after moving into their temporary accommodation.

 

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A Story Of Shocking Conditions And Tenants Despair At A Lack Of Action

For the past six months, ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt has been travelling the country uncovering the shocking conditions being endured by some people and families living in social housing – homes owned and run by local councils and housing associations.

In a documentary – Surviving Squalor: Britain’s Housing Shame – to be broadcast on ITV on Sunday at 10.15pm, he hears first-hand from residents being forced to live for months or even years in unsafe and uninhabitable properties – some are overrun by damp and mould, others have fallen apart in front of tenants’ eyes. The documentary asks why some of the most vulnerable in society are being failed by a housing system that consistently ignores their concerns, fails to fix their problems, and offers them nowhere else to go.

On Christmas Day 2020, Fransoy Hewitt woke to prepare lunch for her two young boys. Despite everything, she was determined to make it a special day. Coronavirus had all but cancelled Christmas for the south of England, but the pandemic was the least of Fransoy’s concerns. A month earlier, a small but persistent leak in her living room, which she had been reporting to her landlord Croydon Council for over a year, suddenly began to spread, taking on a new ferocity.

No longer confined to a small patch of her one bedroom flat, water began leaking from the kitchen ceiling, into the bathroom, the hallway and across the living room. Water cascaded through light fittings, soaking the floors and destroying the family’s possessions. Fransoy’s living room was so sodden and cold, within days it was no longer habitable. She placed buckets, and the plastic bath she once used to bathe her baby boys, under the drips, emptying them every few hours.

The kitchen became plagued with thick mould. Black, furry spores saturating the walls and ceilings, growing on plugs and in cupboards and spreading onto their food. No matter how much Fransoy wiped it away, it soon came back. She continued to complain repeatedly to Croydon Council throughout November and December. Maintenance workers would sometimes be sent out. They turned off the electricity to their fridge, and the lights in their bathroom and hallway, to prevent electrocution, but they never fixed the leak.

They would have seen the water dripping into buckets around the flat, and walked on the sodden floors, their shoes squelching. They would have seen the mould-infested kitchen and smelt the unbearable stench of damp that hits you the moment you walk through the door of the flat. And yet the leak went unfixed, for months. So on Christmas Day 2020, Fransoy woke to make lunch for her two sons in this one bedroom council flat. Water dripping around her, she prepared their dinners and plated up, as the boys sat down at a small wooden table in the living room, the steadily-filling baby bath at their feet.

As she handed them their food, water began dripping onto the table. Determined that they should eat Christmas dinner together as a family, and with nowhere else to sit, Fransoy grabbed an umbrella. She held the umbrella above her sons heads, while they ate their Christmas dinners. Fransoy told me this story when I first met her 10 weeks later, in March 2021. I saw for myself what those maintenance workers would had seen. I saw the horrific conditions that Fransoy had reported time and time and time again to Croydon Council.

She showed me the logbook of all the calls she had made and the emails she had sent to the complaints department. Such was Fransoy’s lack of trust in the council, she meticulously noted the dates and times of every phone call, should they ever question her.  Her desperation was palpable. She had turned to the media in a last-ditch effort to get her and her sons out of a flat she genuinely feared would kill them.

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The Man Struggling To Breathe In A Council Flat ‘Unfit To House Humans’

See the conditions Mehdi has to live in, including a leak running down his walls found to be contaminated with faeces – the flat has been declared to be “unfit for human habitation”

“Please be careful with all the water. Don’t slip,” said Mehdi Sheikh when he led ITV News Correspondent Daniel Hewitt into his home as part of our investigation into the country’s housing scandal. Living in among mould, and as we later learned, faecal contamination, he is used to trying to stay safe and healthy despite the odds. Mehdi suffers from chronic back and leg pain, which affects his mobility, and says the squalor he lives in is only adding to his problems.

“This is what’s making my breathing really bad – day in, day out,” he said. I’m waking up at night with a breathless fatigue because I’m feeling suffocated in here. My chest is feeling congested… I am on literally on the verge of nervous breakdown.” Mehdi says he now has to rely on a respirator to get by.

For 17 years he’s lived in this council flat in south London. Last November a leak, that went unfixed, has now left his home uninhabitable. He’s placed towels and rugs down on top of his carpets in an attempt to soak up the water. They make little difference and are sodden when we arrive.

“They get squeezed out twice a day. And obviously they get put on again and by next morning, that’s how they are.”

We asked Jeff Charlton, an environmental health inspector, to assess the flat and his findings confirmed Mehdi’s fears – and more. The extractor fan in the toilet was the wrong way around, “actually blowing air in, instead of extracting damp air out”. He found a “100% chance of electrocution” at points in the property. Worse still, he said he could assume the leak was not just water.

“I don’t know whether that’s sewage just dripping through, bath water, a leaking pipe… but I must assume that it’s contaminated.” His predictions were proven correct when bacterial analysis we had conducted on the water leak indicated “significant faecal contamination”.

Lewisham Council’s own independent inspection of Mehdi’s property also found the conditions were “unfit for human habitation”. The response has been “simply pathetic,” Mehdi says.

“Nothing has been done whatsoever. Because they don’t have to go and live like the way I am living. It just feels like living in a slum. And I just simply don’t know what to do. [I feel] totally helpless. I don’t feel like even going in there because it stinks. I don’t feel comfortable. It doesn’t feel like a home.

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Family Of Five Forced To Live In Travelodge After Mould ‘Hell’ In Collapsing Home

Jenni Bamblett’s home in East Malling, Kent was so damaged her kids were able to put their hands through the walls.

The 31-year-old claimed the floor was also collapsing and she felt as though she would pass out whenever she went into the house. Jenni said she and her family have been unable to get Covid jabs due to the health effects they’ve suffered from living in their mouldy house. The problems with the home started a year after the family moved in during November 2016, she claimed.

Jenni told Kent Live: “The boiler and radiators were leaking and I also found damp patches on the ceiling from the radiators. The floor was also collapsing and there was a massive big gap in the front room. It was absolutely horrible to have this happen in my own home.”

Jenni said it was particularly hard to look after her kids in the home given some of them are on the autism spectrum and require extra care. “It’s basically been hell, I just want to break down and don’t know what to do or where to go,” she said.

Jenni has had to pay for her family to stay in hotels to get away from the house, and has pleaded with the landlord to fix the problems. She has been receiving treatment for chest infections and her entire family has been prescribed inhalers.

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Social Housing Tenant’s Cry For Help: Get Me Out Of This ‘Hellhole’ Flat

After three years of water leaks, mould has permeated a resident’s home. And other London & Quadrant tenants are also living in appalling conditions.

The Kent flat is owned and managed by London & Quadrant (L&Q), one of the UK’s largest housing associations, and she says that years of unresolved damp and defects have led her to contemplate suicide.

The 60-year-old, who is bipolar, was moved to the property in 2018 after leaving a women’s refuge, also run by L&Q, and claims it was damp from the outset.

 “I was told that it was that, or nothing,” she says. “The mould has got so bad it’s in my food cupboards, destroying my possessions, and my mental and physical health, but when I complained I was just given a bottle of mould spray.”

Matters came to a head in June when leaks from the flat above caused the bathroom ceiling to collapse. L&Q removed the debris, but declined repeated requests to move her to new accommodation.

It only accepted that the conditions were insanitary when the Observer intervened, and is now seeking alternative accommodation. It has also agreed to pay compensation for the damage to her possessions.

An Observer exposé of appalling living conditions in 2018 prompted L&Q to commission an independent investigation, and it promised reforms following the investigator’s critical findings. Three years on, it is still failing to address reports of unsafe and insanitary accommodation, according to tenants who have contacted us.

Antaine O’Briain, a resident of an L&Q block in west London, says he and fellow residents have spent six years trying to resolve damp problems and rotting windows.

“Rainwater drips on to the electricity meter cupboard. Some residents are scared to open their windows for fear the frame will fall out, as has happened already. None of the flats has adequate central heating, and the basement is so overrun with vermin refuse collectors refuse to enter the bin area,” he says. “L&Q promised renovations would begin in 2018 and then, in 2019, but nothing happened and the place is falling apart.”

L&Q blamed the delays on the planning application process. Scaffolding was erected last month, two weeks after the Observer got involved.

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