A mother of three from North London has been left ‘at breaking point’ after serious leaks not fixed for three years have caused black mould and damp in her council home.
Anna Bensouiah, 42, claims the ‘very poor’ state of the flat has taken a huge toll on her family’s physical and mental health.
Anna has lived at Dickens House, on Malvern Road in Brent, with her children – aged 8,14, and 17 – since 2008. She says her situation has been ‘miserable’ since the leaks from the floors above started in 2020 and her landlord, Brent Council, hasn’t done anything to solve the issue.
She added: “I’ve called the council hundreds of times, emailing, complaining, but nobody took any action at all, nobody came to see what was happening. I pleaded with [them], literally almost begging them, to fix the leaks and carry out the repairs; however, we were neglected and forgotten”.
Anna claims the conditions in her flat have contributed to her youngest son developing ‘uncontrollable asthma’. She said: “I cannot bathe him in the wet room as the air makes him wheeze very fast so I wash him in a bowl in the kitchen. He has been hospitalised previously and I have ended up on antidepressants.”
She added: “I am at mental breaking point, helpless. I don’t know what tragedy must happen for them to do something about it. Yet the council has not bothered and I’m still in the flat with my kids.”
Another leak that started last week (Friday, June 30) was so bad it prompted Anna to call 999. A video shows water pouring down onto electrical wiring in her bathroom causing it to spark and the water on the floor coming up to her ankles.
She claims to have had no power in her house since then as the fire brigade was forced to shut it off for safety reasons, meaning she has been left without lighting, a cooker, or a fridge.
The London Fire Brigade confirmed to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that it attended the address for ‘flooding through electric’ but couldn’t provide any more details.
Anna has now been told by Brent Council that she and her family will be temporarily moved to a building next to hers, Blake Court. However, she is reluctant to do so due to fears for the safety of her and her family. She said: “There are squatters, drug dealers, you name it there because the building is basically all empty. It’s abandoned, there’s maybe two families living in the entire block.”
She added: “They are forcing me to move there because they claim they have nothing else. They are telling me if I don’t go to Blake Court they will involve the courts and get an order to remove me from Dickens House. I am freaking out.”
Cabinet member for housing, homelessness and renters’ security, Cllr Promise Knight, said the council is ‘horrified’ at the damage caused by the leak and the impact it has had on Anna and her family. She added: “Our team has made extensive efforts to move Ms Bensouiah and children temporarily so that our contractors can come in and fix the leak.
“We understand that Ms Bensouiah has now agreed to move temporarily to Blake Court and has also accepted our offer of new beds for her and her three children. We know that Blake Court is not Ms Bensouiah’s ideal choice, given that there have been previous cases of anti-social behaviour in the building.
“However, these cases have all now been resolved. Ms Bensouiah will be able to return to her home as soon as the leak has been fixed and the repair work carried out.”
Anna said she accepted the offer eventually because she ‘had no choice’ and disputes that the cases of anti-social behaviour have been resolved. She added: “I’ve been begging for three years for them to do the repair work and they waited until the last second once the power has blown up.”