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Family of five stuck in mouldy Ealing flat for three years, report finds

A mum, her partner, and three children have been left in a flat filled with mould and damp for almost three years, a Housing Ombudsman report has found.

Ealing Council placed the family in a privately owned flat in October 2021 after it determined it owed Miss X a duty to house them.

Within weeks of moving in, Miss X complained of a leak in her children’s bedroom. After an investigation, the leak was discovered to be coming from the flat above, at which point the mother of three made a complaint to the council.

She told the council about the leaks and explained that the 2-bedroom flat was too small for five people to live in. The council reported the repair issues to her landlord and advised her about her housing options.

In December Miss X told the council her children’s health was being negatively impacted by the condition of the property. The council told Miss X to complete a medical form.

A month later the mother was informed that the damp and disrepair at her home should be repaired as soon as possible but there were not sufficient grounds to give her medical priority for a new property.

It was around this time that Miss X also reported mould in the living room, bedrooms and bathroom of her accommodation. While the leak in her child’s room was initially fixed in December it began leaking again in March and she was told not to use the electrics until it was repaired a second time in early April.

During this time there has been a persistent mould problem which the council had told Miss X she could remove with a dehumidifier, extractor fans and cleaning and treating her walls. In June Miss X put in a new medical form. The council’s medical adviser considered it and found damp at the property may be having an impact on the health of Miss X and her family.

It recommended repairs be completed as soon as possible, and an Environmental Services report be requested.

Despite several months of communications between the landlord, the tenants and the council, mould has continued to persist in the flat with the Ombudsman reporting that as of January 2024, Miss X was still experiencing problems.

Leaks in the children’s bedroom have also consistently reoccurred on two more occasions. The Ombudsman does note that over the year the council has taken steps to try to improve the situation including offering to install ventilation fans to help with mould and emergency accommodation while surveys and repair work take place.

These offers were refused by the family, although an explanation for why was not included in the report. The ombudsman concluded in the report: “The Council must keep the issue of suitability of temporary accommodation under review. Miss X told the Council about her concerns about continuing leaks at her home and that mould and damp at the property were negatively impacting the health of her and her family.

“This amounts to a change of circumstances and the Council should have carried out a section 202 suitability review. I have seen no evidence that it did so. This is fault.

“Also, I have seen no evidence the Council told Miss X she could request a section 202 suitability review even though she had raised concerns about the suitability of the property. This is fault.

“I am aware the Council offered Miss X a move to emergency accommodation which she did not accept. While it is reassuring the Council made Miss X such an offer this does not mitigate the injustice caused by the fault I have found.”

As a result, the Ombudsman ordered Ealing Council to:

  • carry out a section 202 suitability review to find out if Miss X’s accommodation is suitable for her and her family. If the review finds that Miss X’s accommodation is unsuitable it should pay her £150 for each month she and her family were deprived of suitable accommodation and for each subsequent month she remains in her current temporary accommodation.
  • Within four weeks of the final decision, the Council will obtain a report from its Environmental Services about the condition of Miss X’s temporary accommodation. It will also send Miss X a written apology for the fault the Ombudsman has found.

The council has agreed to take the actions above, according to the report.

An Ealing Council spokesperson said: “Keeping our tenants safe in their homes is a top priority for us. We take all complaints seriously, and we are sorry that this tenant was not given the standard of service they should expect.

“Referrals to the ombudsman are the final stage in the complaints process for social landlords. We have recently updated our complaints handling process to ensure residents who raised concerns are dealt with promptly and properly.

“This case relates to a household that presented to us at risk of homelessness and were placed in a privately rented home as temporary accommodation.

“We have made good progress on the actions agreed with the ombudsman. A statutory Section 202 suitability review is now being considered by our reviews team, and we have commissioned and received an environmental report on the property in question. It noted the need for some work on the property which we have informed the landlord about. We will do everything in our power to ensure that the landlord brings the property in question up to the standard we expect. In the meantime, we are offering the family alternative temporary accommodation.”

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