‘They took everything’: Former housing officer left devastated after council repairs ‘destroy’ home

A former Southwark council employee has been left “devastated” after three years of council repairs to her property left her home “destroyed”.

Holly Evans, a 68-year-old former Southwark housing officer, was forced to leave her council property of 14 years in 2021 due to subsidence.

She said: “The hallway just collapsed one day – chunks were coming off my walls.”

Ms Evans had reported subsidence at her rented property in Grove Park road, Camberwell, seven years before, but was told at the time it wasn’t an issue.

Ms Evans said: “I arrived at my new property and it was uninhabitable.

Ms Evans worked as a housing officer in Southwark Council for 26 years (Picture: Holly Evans)

“The walls were filthy, there was rubbish in the cupboards and dirt all over the floor. The housing officer told me to stay with friends until it was cleared up.”

For six weeks Ms Evans was sofa surfing, staying with friends and family before she moved into the property in Sydenham Hill.

She said: “It’s a hell hole – I can hear right through to the flat above from every room. I hear every time they use the toilet.

“I can’t have friends round because it’s embarrassing.”

For three years Ms Evans’ said she has been battling with the council to let her return home.

She said: “When they first moved me they said I would have to go on the housing list. I’m not a homeless client, I’m a tenant. I took them to court and won but that was three years ago.

“At the time I had just qualified to be a foster parent but I had to resign because of all the housing issues.”

Last month Southwark council informed Ms Evans that repairs had been completed. But, when she returned her house had been gutted and the garden ripped up.

She said: “They took everything. Rose bushes, vines I’ve grown for 15 years, fencing. I loved my garden. It was beautiful.

“In the house they stripped the floor trim and took my curtains, chandelier and all my light fittings.”

From left, before and after the council sent construction workers to repair subsidence in her home (Picture: Holly Evans)

The council offered Ms Evans £350 in compensation, but she says this will not even scratch the surface of costs.

For the last month Ms Evans said she has been visiting the property to clean the floors and move her belongings back in. But on Monday she found the front door to her building was broken and the burglar alarm disabled.

She said: “I had to tell the council the door was broken – they didn’t even know. Now I still can’t move home.”

Ms Evans worked as a housing officer for Southwark council for 26 years, originally working as an onsite caretaker at Ullswater House near the Old Kent Road. 

She said: “I’m devastated – I cannot believe I have been treated like this. 

“It’s lucky I used to be a housing officer because I know how it works but I dread to think what happened to my neighbours.

“I know from working there people deny phone calls all day long so you have to keep chasing.”

Ms Evan’s said the experience has had a crippling effect on her mental health.

She said: “I feel like I’m going crazy.

“The only good part is the community. I work at the local food bank and people are lovely.

“But I can’t sleep because of the stress and I find myself walking around crying.”

Southwark council has been approached for comment.

Pictured top: Ms Evans garden before and after the council repairs, Holly Evans (Picture: Holly Evans)

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