Mum fears kids will be taken away after council places her in unsuitable homes with ‘rats and leaking sewage’

By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter

A mum said she fears being separated from her kids after being placed in a series of unsuitable properties by the local council, which had “rats” and “leaking sewage”.

Kathleen Chambers, 38, claims she has been waiting more than a year to be offered a property by Bromley council that is suitable for her and her six children.

The mum said the council accepted her emergency accommodation application in October 2022. She said she and her five children stayed with family and friends while she was pregnant until she was offered a property in Wolverhampton that December.

Ms Chambers said: “There was no furniture. There was all of the last tenant’s rubbish everywhere. All their clothes were in the house. It was absolutely filthy. There was a skip’s worth of rubbish in the back garden and the front garden.

“I had a housing officer come down and confirm that it was never ready for someone to move into like they stated.”

The mum said it took weeks for the rubbish to be cleared from the property, with the bannister in the staircase allegedly falling off the wall while she was using it. The mum said she then went into hospital in February this year to be treated for liver failure and the birth of her premature son.

She said: “No one from housing let the letting agents know that I was in hospital. They emptied my property, everything I own. They took everything out the house. They said that nobody let them know I was in hospital and they thought I’d abandoned the property.”

The mum said the items taken away included a brand new cot for her baby and her late parents’ clothing.

The council then placed her in a property in Catford, which she claimed had a rodent infestation coming from a hole in her child’s wardrobe.

She said: “Within a few days of staying there, my daughter came running down the stairs. She nearly fell and twisted her ankle, screaming there was a rat in her bedroom. Absolutely massive… In the walls in the night time you could hear the scratching, like they were really trying to get out.”

Ms Chambers claimed the landlord of the property ignored complaints from her and Bromley council, and that she wasn’t able to put her newborn baby on the floor to play because of the rodents.

Ms Chambers said she and her kids were moved out of the Catford property in September and offered a new space in Newham.

The mum claimed she still has not received working keys to the home despite the locks being changed several times, with the state of the inside also being extremely dirty.

The mum said she had arranged for her kids to be away with family and friends for four weeks while the property was initially made suitable. She said that the council has now warned her to move into the property within two weeks or the authority will remove its duty to house her.

She claimed she was told this despite the council allegedly receiving a letter from social services last week to say the Newham property is unsuitable and Ms Chambers will have her kids taken away if she tries to move into it with them.

She said: “I actually feel let down really badly because my kids don’t trust any professionals now. How am I going to get my kids back into school? They have witnessed so much.”

A Bromley council spokesman said: “While the council is limited in what it can comment on due to ongoing legal discussions in this case, we are committed to securing suitable accommodation for the residents who need it, including in this case.”

The letting agents responsible for the properties Ms Chambers was allocated to have been approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.

Pictured top: Kathleen Chambers, 38, claimed she has been waiting over a year to be offered a property by Bromley council that is suitable for her and her six children (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

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