‘I don’t want my children to die’: Mum living with asthmatic kids in house riddled with black mould

A single mum said she is “frightened” for her children who are all severely asthmatic and living in their second council property riddled with black mould.

Cheryl Mendez, 49, from Foss Avenue, Croydon, lives with her three children Eloise Mendez, 11, Emmanuel Mendez, seven, and Isaachar Mendez, three. Ms Mendez and her children all suffer from asthma – a condition known to be linked to damp and mould – and rely on inhalers to breathe.

Dark patches of damp and mould have spread across the kitchen and walls since Ms Mendez was moved into the property by the council in 2017.

Ms Mendez said: “They are children. My middle son doesn’t eat properly, he wakes up because he can’t breathe.

“It’s traumatic for all of us. I’m watching my children struggle.”

Ms Mendez said she has had four leaks in the property in the last few days. Since she was moved into the home by the council she said they have lived with mice infestations, asbestos, damp, the smell of sewage, and black mould that is making their asthma worse.

Cheryl Mendez outside her current property in Croydon (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

In July, the council moved Ms Mendez and her children out of the property so they could fix the leaks and mould.

But Ms Mendez said that when she moved back in in August, the mould had just been covered with plastic sheets of lino, which she can lift up to reveal the dark patches.

She said: “Our asthma is getting worse and  I can see they didn’t fix any of the issues with the property, they just tried to hide them.

“The leaks now cause regular power cuts – especially when it rains. All the lights flicker and our fridge and freezer stop working.

“My baby is saying they are scared of the dark and I have to follow my seven-year-old everywhere because he is so nervous.”

From left, the black mould on Ms Mendez’s kitchen floor before repairs in July, the covering that was put over the top of the mould by the council, Ms Mendez can lift the covering to see black mould still growing since she has been moved back into the property (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

All three of Ms Mendez’s children have been diagnosed as autistic, which she says makes all the issues more difficult for them to understand and cope with.

Ms Mendez said the leaks in the bathroom are causing the smell of sewage to fill the house.

She said: “A neighbour came round and had to hold her hand over her mouth because the smell was so bad. 

“I’m just trying to stand up for my family. I am a single mum – I can’t do it all on my own – there should be a duty of care from the council.”

The council put plastic lino coverings over damp and mould during six weeks of repairs (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

This is not the first time Ms Mendez has lived in a council home with black mould.

In 2016 the council moved her and her children into a property that was covered from the inside out in mould.

She said: “It was the same time that Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died from an asthma attack. I was scared.

“Then they moved me out of one property into another with all the same issues.

The council owned high rise, riddled with black mould, that Ms Mendez and her children lived in since 2016 (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

“I don’t want my children to die at the hands of the council. Why are they risking my family and waiting for something bad to happen before they act?”

Complaints about damp and mould in social housing have almost tripled in the capital from 688 in 2021 to 1,925 in 2023, a Freedom of Information request by BBC London revealed.

Cases of severe maladministration findings have also increased from 39 in 2021 to 315 in 2023.

Councils have seen a 10 per cent drop in government funding across the last 10 years, which has in part caused a chronic shortage of social housing and lack of investment in existing council run properties.

Croydon council has been approached for comment.

Pictured top: The council owned high rise Ms Mendez lived in with her children in 2016, Ms Mendez outside her new property (Picture: Cheryl Mendez)

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