EXCLUSIVE: Inside UK’s social homes from hell – plagued with rats, mould and crumbling walls

News

Families across the country have exposed the mould, damp and disrepair they’ve been forced to endure living in under social housing and council landlords.

Their examples come following the shocking story of Awaab Ishak who died shortly after his second birthday thanks to toxic mould in his flat, which saw his throat swell and fungi develop in his lungs and blood.

After a coroner ruled the infant died of a severe respiratory disease caused by mould in the social housing flat, landlords Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, admitted it made false assumptions about his family’s lifestyle when they raised complaints.

At the weekend Housing Secretary Michael Gove wrote a letter to councils warning that such a death could ‘never be allowed to happen again.’

However, tenants in similar conditions have shone a light of the shocking state of social housing in the UK, through images shared with the Mirror.

From leaking walls that crumble when touched, as well as disrepair, black mould and damp -many tenants are left fearing for their own lives.

With very little protections in place for tenants, the chronic disrepair has left many at breaking point.

Wheelchair user Sheila Lewis, 60, has been stuck in a rat infested flat in London run by L&Q for several weeks.

She said: “I’ve got rats, I’ve got mice, I can’t sleep. I’m so depressed. Why isn’t anyone listening to me? Why? I can’t take this anymore. I cannot.

“I am in a wheelchair. I need to move out. I do not wish to come back here again.”

The Mirror ran a story about the rat infestation Sheila was battling on October 17.

At the time, L&Q said they took the “complaint very seriously” and would reach out to Ms Lewis and “work with her to reinspect her home.”

Now, over a month later, with the issue remaining unresolved, The Mirror approached the landlord once more and a spokesperson for L&Q said:

“The issue has recently returned, and we are working with Ms Lewis to ensure remediation work is carried out, alongside the other repairs, as a matter of urgency.”

Much of the neglect tenants face occurs over time, raising questions over maintenance is some cases.

Paul Ellison from Manchester was forced to take showers under a collapsed ceiling in his bathroom for eight months before he got solicitors involved.

He says he was moved into the home which was deemed suitable by his Sanctuary Housing Association despite the severe disrepair.

Although the ceiling has now been repaired, Paul says he has also been left without heating as temperatures plummeted this week.

He said: “It has come to the point now I don’t stay at the property as I don’t feel safe [and] comfortable.

“I hate that place. Any little thing gets me agitated.

“I can’t concentrate on my priorities and goals as I just want to get out of there.”

“A spokesperson for Sanctuary Housing said: “The issue with the boiler was reported on 14 November and we immediately attended Mr Ellis’ home to investigate.

“Unfortunately, the boiler could not be repaired and a replacement was ordered which we have arranged to install on Saturday (26 November) as soon as it arrives. We are sorry for the delay as we await delivery of the new boiler.

“We can also confirm that while Mr Ellis cancelled the original appointment arranged to restore the ceiling in November 2021, the work was completed once we were able to agree a new date with him.”

The neglect faced by tenants has left them feeling angry and deceived.

Kerry Prime from Essex saw droplets of water form on her ceiling before it became completely soaked and mould began to form.

She says she has been battling damp and that she is “totally angry’.

A spokesperson for Sanctuary Housing said: “Our local housing officer is in regular direct contact with Miss Prime – making visits to her home – and we have always carried out repairs for her when issues have been raised.

“Further investigation into the damp reported is arranged for tomorrow (Thursday 24 November) and we will ensure any work required is carried out as soon as possible.”

As well as feeling infuriated by the horrid living conditions, ultimately, tenants feel they have nowhere to truly call home.

Erika Griffiths from London says that she and residents in her building run by PA Housing have been living with mould and damp ever since a main water pipe burst.

The ceiling had also collapsed, stripping it in half and leaving cables and metal beams exposed. For Erika, her home has simply become ‘somewhere to live.’

She said: “I don’t feel like I have a home. It’s just somewhere to I have to live. “

Erika says that tenants in her building had to call their housing association constantly in order to get repairs as black mould began to grow.

She says they asked for a dehumidifier to deal with the moisture but could not get one and now tenants are stuck living with the mould and damp.

Erika said: “No one has any faith we will see any action soon.”

A spokesperson for PA Housing said: “We are really sorry for the inconvenience caused to our residents living in our flats at Glenpark Court.

“Our team have made contact with every resident to find out whether they have any concerns regarding leaks or damp and mould in their homes.

“This is in addition to carrying out work to the roof and to several homes to remedy known leaks. We are arranging for a survey of the exterior and interior communal areas, as well as inspections of every home within the building, to be carried out at the earliest possible time.

“In the meantime, we have offered alternative accommodation to residents who have been affected and will continue working closely with our residents to resolve the issues reported.”

Kaara Benstead from London as been living with her four-year-old son in a damp and mould ridden home.

The windows have now began to rot which has caused her to injure herself while opening them.

She says she’s had 30 visits by six different surveyors.

The mum says she only wants a home to live in with her child.

She said: “We clean the mould and it just comes back . Me and my family deserve a home which is comfortable to live in.”

A spokesperson for Islington Council said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone has a place to call home which is secure, decent and genuinely affordable. We take all issues of mould, damp and disrepair very seriously

.“We are sorry that Ms Benstead and her family have endured damp and mould at the property and have been working with her and her legal team to progress repairs since responsibility was transferred to us earlier this year.

“So far we have not been able to agree access to the property, but continue to work on a solution with the tenant and her legal team.

“We have identified the problem and last week erected scaffolding at the property; we will shortly begin repair work to the roof.

“We have offered Ms Benstead’s family the option of a temporary move to another property while these works take place, and any other remedial works required inside the property as a result of the leak.

“We are also liaising with our Tenancy Team about the possibility of a permanent move.“Legal proceedings are in progress with the tenant, and it is not appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Local Liberal Democrat councillor Linda Wade says she has tried to support tenants in her ward but still finds it difficult to get any response from housing associations.

She says that one tenant was left with no heating or hot water for 10 years.

During her time as councillor, she has seen residents in her area exposed to severe disrepair including collapsing ceilings and mould.

Linda said: “Social Landlords have got too big. They have become too corporate. They have forgotten their core objective of providing safe, secure, affordable homes.

“They have forgotten their tenants.”

Managing Director of CEL Solicitors Jessica Hampson, who specialise in housing disrepair, said that more was needed in order to legally force landlords to repair tenants’ properties.

She said: “Since austerity in 2008 there has been a steady decline in housing conditions. It’s worrying. Following the tragedy of Awaab’s death, we need to see real change.

“Legally I would like to see the decent homes standard as good law and more powers to compel the landlords to carry out the repairs.

“We need serious investment to local authorities to build decent houses fit for purpose with proper support in the project.”

The Mirror asked Housing Secretary Michael Gove what was being done to put the Decent Homes Standard into law.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure homes are fit to live in and, under the Decent Homes Standard, providers of social housing must take action if hazardous levels of damp and mould are found in properties.

“We’re strengthening the powers of the Regulator of Social Housing to tackle unsafe homes and make sure landlords do not ignore tenants, including issuing unlimited fines and making emergency repairs with landlords footing the bill.

“We are also introducing a Decent Homes Standard for the Private Rented Sector for the first time ever which will make sure privately rented homes are safe and decent. We have recently consulted on this and will set out next steps in due course.”