By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter
A housing association tenant in Lewisham has been living with a hole in his ceiling for 15 years.
Ignatius Okafo, 58, who has a partner and three-month old baby living with him, has won two disrepair cases against Hyde, who run his building, but they have yet to fix the problem.
Mr Okafo moved into the top floor of a housing block on the Pepys Estate in Deptford in 2004 after Lewisham Council decided to demolish the low-rise building he was living in.
The dad said the new building was initially built for industrial premises, rather than residential, while there has been series of issues with the two-bed flat.
“It was meant for warehouses – why would you put social housing in it?” he said, adding that he saw hairline cracks in the walls before construction had even finished.
The building, a wooden structure, is also subject to a waking watch – people who patrol 24/7 to watch for a fire because of laws enacted to remove dangerous cladding after the Grenfell tragedy.
In 2007 Mr Okafo noticed a leak coming through the ceiling of the main bedroom.
Workmen from Hyde eventually cut a hole to see what was going on and found there was no insulation between the room and the roof of the building.
It became so cold that he had to spend a lot of time sleeping elsewhere. Over the years his joints and mental health have been severely affected, he said.
The hole is still in the ceiling to this day.
Between then and now he has won two disrepair cases against Hyde, who have paid compensation, but have yet to fix the problem.
They also paid him less than he was owed in the second case, he said, after his solicitor settled with Hyde without his approval.
And now the housing association is refusing to move Mr Okafo and his family because they offered him three options already.
But Mr Okafo said the first two – a common issue – were unsuitable. He was happy with the third but because of a mix-up with his GP, who failed to send on information about his housing needs to Hyde, Hyde pulled the offer.
There are also ongoing problems with drugs and anti-social behaviour in the building – Mr Okafo installed his own security camera after someone set a fire outside his door.
He said he is not sleeping, in constant fear for his and his family’s safety.
Mr Okafo said: “I’m desperate. I don’t sleep at night – I stay up all night because anything could happen.”
Now he is stuck, afraid and in a cold flat with a very young baby to think about.
“What I want them to do is acknowledge the suffering they’ve put me through because I just want out. My rights have been violated.
“I feel like I don’t count. Why are they torturing me? I have a baby in here,” he said.
Mr Okafo said he just wants a safe, two-bedroom flat where he and his family can be happy.
Mark Warren, Hyde’s responsive operations manager said: “I can confirm that extensive roof works have been undertaken to repair the leak at Mr Okafo’s home.
“However, last autumn the leak returned. We investigated and appointed a roofing expert. We are currently in the process of checking to ensure that the structure of Mr Okafo’s home can cope with the suggested solution without being altered.
“Once the roof is fixed, the bedroom ceiling will need boarding and painting. All other internal works have been completed.
“We have made Mr Okafo three offers of a permanent move, none of which were agreed.
“We have also offered a substantial damages settlement and we have a legal agreement with him to complete works this summer.”
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.