Council tenant says mouldy flat 'made me ill'
A council tenant says spending the coronavirus lockdown stuck in a flat “riddled with damp and mould” has made her ill.
Kirsty Hampshire says she suffers from asthma and her mental health is at “rock bottom” after more than a year of breathing in damp and mouldy air at her flat on Dollis Valley Estate, Underhill.
She claims the walls of the flat have been covered in black and green mould caused by a leak from a balcony in an upstairs flat. But despite telling the council’s housing arm, Barnet Homes, about the leak in November 2019, Kirsty says workmen only turned up to fix it last month.
“I am having to use an inhaler,” she said. “If I go for a walk, I get out of breath – but I never used to. I have never had asthma or any breathing problems before. It is making me so depressed.
“I haven’t slept in a bed since October 2019 – I am sleeping on the floor in my living room. All my belongings are ruined, and everything smells damp and mouldy.”
Kirsty said neighbours had told her the flat’s previous tenant was moved out after complaining about damp in the flat, meaning it had been an “ongoing problem”. She added that after more than a year of inaction, workers “all of a sudden” arrived to put up scaffolding and fix the leak after she told Barnet Homes she had contacted a newspaper.
She said she felt the problems had been “brushed under the carpet” because the flats are set to be knocked down. “They are spending all those millions to regenerate neighbourhoods but not looking out for the people being housed by them,” Kirsty added. “It is disgusting.
“And then you can’t ring them. I tried ringing Barnet Homes for about six months, but they had changed their phone number.”
In a statement, Barnet Homes claimed to have fixed the leak in November 2019 and said the more recent mould problem was caused by condensation. Kirsty disputed this, saying the reason workers had put scaffolding up was to fix a leak outside the flat.
Barnet Homes said its workers were unable to access Kirsty’s home in March 2020 and left a calling card but did not hear back from her until January 2021. Kirsty denies receiving a calling card and said she had been trying to call the housing group.
The council’s housing arm also claimed its new phone number was “well publicised” and residents were contacted “multiple times” to inform them of the change. Kirsty said she had letters with the wrong number on the masthead months after it had been changed, and both she and her mother had tried calling Barnet Homes without success.
Barnet Homes’ statement adds: “We have a number of works scheduled for the property to address the condensation, but regrettably, during the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdowns, some works have had to be postponed.
"When government guidelines allow, we will be installing new thermal boards to the bedrooms and lounge to provide better insulation; applying a mould wash to surfaces to keep them clear from mould; installing new extractor fans to the kitchen and bathroom and upgrading those that already exist.
“We have also provided Kirsty with a dehumidifier to support the management of moisture in the property, as well as giving moisture management advice.
“Over £10,000 was spent on renovating and decorating the property before Kirsty moved in, including a full rewire and a new kitchen and bathroom.
“The property, which was suitable for Kirsty’s needs when it was offered to her, was fully inspected before she moved in, and all works were completed to a high standard.”