Chiswick resident left “hopeless” in face of council’s response to damp and mould in her flat

Image above: Mould in Sahra’s kitchen, mould in Sahra’s living room

Single mother says she is anxious about her children’s health because of ongoing mould problem in her Chiswick home

A long-standing Chiswick resident, Sahra Beyle, has said she has been left “hopeless” in the face of persistent issues with mould and damp in her council-allocated home, which she says is seriously affecting her and her children’s physical and mental health.

Sahra, a single mother raising two children, who has lived in Chiswick for 23 years, reported mould and damp in one of her rooms to Hounslow Council about six months ago. She and her two children live in a one-bedroom flat.

Initially they scheduled a repair appointment for October, but after the intervention of Conservative councillor for Chiswick Homefields Jack Emsley, the repairs were rescheduled sooner. Both appointments were later cancelled at short notice.

The mould is causing health issues for Sahra and her family, particularly her son.

“My son is still unwell and didn’t go to school since Wednesday, he’s forever coughing” Sahra told The Chiswick Calendar.

Their GP has prescribed him an inhaler and he may be at risk of developing asthma.

The council initially offered alternative accommodation, situate about 20 miles away at the other end of the borough, which would have made it impossible for her children to continue attending their school in Chiswick.

When Sahra requested closer accommodation, the council told her she could accept the distant housing or face suspension from the housing list.

 

Above: YouTube video showing the extent of the mould in Sahra’s home

Sahra left “with debt and stress” 

Despite Sahra’s persistent efforts to report the issue, she has faced delays and frustrations. Sahra has taken time off work to accommodate workers sent from Lampton 360, the council-owned company to fix the mould, but workers have cancelled with short notice three times over the last three months meaning Sahra has taken time off work and lost money for nothing.

Even when they did arrive, she says they did not do the job properly:

“Two of them came over and it was crazy they didn’t even know what to do… All they did was remove the black marks… they were supposed to come back the next day and do the anti-mould paint… that never happened and I waited the whole day. Now I have to do everything all on my own”.

“It’s hopeless” Sahra said, through tears.  “I have to borrow money to get all the paint and gloss… I am now left with debt and stress”.

Sahra’s next planned appointment to fix the mould was for Tuesday 31 October, which the Council say they are able to bring forward to Thursday 5 October. She will again take time off work and hope the workers will turn up and do the job properly.

Images above: Cllr Jack Emsley, mould pictured in other council-owned properties in Chiswick

Backlog of outstanding repairs has increased dramatically in a year

Cllr Emsley told The Chiswick Calendar there has been a significant increase in Hounslow’s housing maintenance backlog, which was revealed in the year-end report by Lampton 360, the organisation responsible for repairs in Hounslow.

The report showed a substantial rise in outstanding repairs, he said, increasing from 57 in 2021/2022 to more than 1,200 in 2022/2023, more than 20 times as many in the space of just a year.

He acknowledged the resource limitations within the housing department but called for a comprehensive review of the Lampton 360 contract. He stressed the need for improved efficiency in managing repairs and maintenance, suggesting the possibility of bringing these services in-house or exploring private contractors.

“When you’ve got a mum and two kids who are living in a substandard house, you have to do better than give them the six month timeframe. You can’t ask her to stay off of work on a possibility, I mean the amount of times the maintenance company has cancelled on Sahra when she’s taken time off work and stayed at home.”

“This is a recurring theme, so we spoke at length about this on the housing scrutiny panel last year. We spent quite a long time looking at this on council homes. My inbox is full of examples like this… lots of other Chiswick councillors are the same. The problem isn’t necessarily with the housing itself, the problem is with the housing department.”

Images above: Hounslow House, Cllr Sue Sampson

Hounslow Council say they are “committed to ensuring that residents live in safe, healthy and decent homes”

We asked Hounslow Council for their response to Sahra’s predicament and the general increase in the backlog of housing problems.

Councillor Sue Sampson, Cabinet Member for Housing Management and Homelessness at Hounslow Council told us:

“We understand our tenants’ concern regarding damp and mould in their property and will work closely with them to quickly reach a positive resolution and ensure damp and mould is removed from their home. 

“Hounslow is committed to ensuring that residents live in safe, healthy and decent homes and to drive this forward we pledged an additional £1million to urgently address damp and mould issues.

“This funding has enabled us to set up a dedicated healthy homes taskforce, with a detailed action plan for clearing the backlog of repairs and will improve the data captured on cases in the borough to ensure resources can be prioritised for specific areas or cases. 

“Alongside investing in improvements to our housing stock, the heathy homes taskforce will equip tenants with the tools to work with us to prevent and manage condensation, damp and mould in their homes.

“Tackling the problem early is vital for preventing any harmful health impacts and we will be providing simple up-to-date information and advice, including a new guide, workshops and home visits.”

The Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove wrote to housing providers at the end of January requiring them to provide an urgent review into the housing conditions for private and social tenants.

His letter was prompted by the death of Awaab Ishak, the two year old who died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by “extensive” mould in a one-bedroom flat where he lived with his parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

READ ALSO: LB Hounslow to spend an extra £1m on tackling damp and mould in council homes

Hounslow Council said they have a “comprehensive process” in place to enable the Council and its customers (residents) to speed up reporting, diagnosing, and dealing with issues of condensation and damp within its properties.

They said their Contact Centre triage calls to establish possible causes of the condensation, damp and mould (based on a specific set of questions). Thereafter, the Council say they ensure a job is raised with the appropriate trade via their Responsive Repairs team or their Healthy Homes Taskforce.