Grandmother with lung disease forced to wear mask at home to keep safe from mould

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A grandmother with lung disease is living in a flat with mould so bad she has to wear a mask in her own home.

Tracey Cook, 59, is scared her roof will collapse if her landlord, Lewisham Homes, doesn’t fix damp covering the walls of her home.

The shift worker dreads coming home from her 12-hour days for fear of what new leak will greet her when she walks through the door.

Damp ruined wall in the property in Lewisham (Picture: Grahame Larter)

She claims Lewisham Homes has done nothing to solve the problem despite her complaining for eight years.

Her son, who lives with her, has been forced to sleep in the living room because the mould is so bad in his bedroom he fears falling ill if he spends too much time there.

Ms Cook said: “If I want to go in the spare room, I have to wear a mask because of the damp and mould. I’m at breaking point. It’s affecting my health and it’s affecting my work.

“My son is sleeping in the living room now because the problem is so bad. He can’t sleep in the spare room. If I’m working shifts he’ll sleep in my bed, but otherwise it’s the couch.

“I’m worried about what I’m going to come home to. It has been going on for seven years but they’ve tried to tell me it’s because of the pandemic. This has been happening well before Covid.”

Buckets collecting water from leaks in the property in Lewisham (Picture: Grahame Larter)

Over the years of waiting for the problem to be solved, the damp has spread to half of Ms Cook’s property and she now also suffers from mould in her bathroom and leaks in her kitchen during heavy rain.

She spent Christmas emptying heavy buckets filled with rainwater collected from leaks into her bathtub. Miss Cook avoids storing plates and cutlery in her kitchen cupboards because of mould growing on them.

Ms Cook claims that when she complains to Lewisham Homes, instead of helping her, she feels like the landlord is at “war” with her.

She said she had spent hours of time arguing with the company about contractors who never show up or fail to complete any work.

Ms Cook said: “They’ve done nothing to improve the flat. It’s brutally cold in this property. I was told in 2016 that they would put double glazing in. We’re going into 2023 now and I’m still waiting.

“They said they were going to install an industrial humidifier to dry the walls months ago, but nothing ever appeared.

“When they eventually respond, they say things like ‘don’t put clothes on radiators and don’t hang clothes out.’ It’s like they don’t understand the scale of the problem at all.”

Lewisham Homes manages 19,000 homes on behalf of Lewisham Council.

Last year, the council decided to take back control of all properties from the company by the end of 2023, due to “very serious concerns” about how Lewisham Homes dealt with repairs.

Lewisham Homes said: “We would like to apologise for the delay in resolving this matter. The damp is due to issues with the roof which require extensive repair work.

“Plans are in place for this work to be carried out in. In the meantime, we are working with the resident to arrange any remedial works that are required inside the property.”

Pictured top: Tracey Cook in the damp ridden property in Lewisham (Picture: Grahame Larter)

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