Three decades of damp and mould for long-suffering Lewisham resident

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A mother’s council flat has damp so bad she says she has been unable to have carpets in two of the bedrooms for 30 years.

Jennifer Davy, 62, first reported issues with damp and mould in the three-bed flat to her landlord Lewisham council in 1988, shortly after she moved into the property.

A council report dated November 1988 noted two of the bedrooms in her Grove Street home had mould and a high level of moisture, and that the problems constituted a ‘statutory nuisance’ under public health law.

Over the years, council staff have tried treating the mould countless times. In between 2011 and 2020 alone, workers washed down the walls in her flat nine times.

But three decades on, the mum-of-four says the underlying problem is no closer to being solved, and fears long-term exposure to damp and mould is making her and her family ill.

Ms Davy said: “We can’t have carpet in two of the rooms because it’s so wet. I don’t even want to be at home. I spend a lot of time outside. It’s not fair that my kids only see mould as their home. We’re paying the rent for somewhere. We just want to live in a decent home.”

“I cough a lot. I don’t want to become a statistic. I want to live to be able to see my grandchildren and spend many more years with them. I need to be well to support my 92-year-old mum.

In the worst affected rooms of the family’s house in Deptford, the mould has even found its way in between window panes in the bedrooms. Two of Ms Davy’s four daughters who grew up in the house now suffer from asthma. Ms Davy herself has to take allergy tablets for a persistent cough that she blames on living conditions in the flat.

A couple of years ago, fed up with the council’s lack of progress in dealing with the problem, Ms Davy submitted a complaint to the Housing Ombudsman. At the time her landlord was Lewisham Homes, a company the council set-up to manage properties which it has since brought back in house.

But the Ombudsman’s investigation was thwarted after Lewisham Homes failed to provide key information, including proof it had ruled out structural causes of damp in the property.

Despite this, in 2023 the Ombudsman upheld Ms Davy’s complaint and said Lewisham Homes had ‘failed to address severe damp and mould within an acceptable time.’

Evidence of more mould in the flat (left) and an inspection report from 1988 detailing the same issue (Pictures: Robert Firth)

It ordered Lewisham Homes  to apologise to Ms Davy for delays in repairs, pay £750 compensation and commit to carrying out works within four weeks. But over a year since the Ombudsman’s decision, the problems persist, according to Ms Davy.

She claims the only solution the council has offered her is for a plug-in ventilation system to be fitted in their hallway. The family has rejected this, as they are unconvinced it will deal with the root cause of the damp, which they believe is structural.

Ms Davy’s daughter Leah Grant, 33, said: “Our argument [is] if you’re putting that in the hallway how does that treat the black mould that comes up through my mum’s room, the black mould that comes in my wardrobe, all the mould around my windowpane and my sister’s room and the bathroom?

“They’re focusing on the condensation, which is fine, but it doesn’t treat the root of the problem. We could have the heating on every single day at the highest. The mould is still going to come back.”

A Lewisham council spokesman said: “We fully accepted the Housing Ombudsman’s findings in this case, and have been working with Ms Davy to address the issues in her home.

“Our inspections have not identified structural problems. However, we do acknowledge that certain buildings, due to their construction and location, are more prone to condensation build-up which can lead to mould growth.

“Our qualified surveyors have recommended a course of action including the installation of a ventilation system to address this problem. We are happy to commit to visit this property again with an independent surveyor and discuss the findings with Ms Davy.”

Pictured top: Jennifer Davy (Picture: Robert Firth)

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