Teen sleeps on sofa due to damp and mould

Islington mum’s concern over family health as council flat damp and mould left unresolved

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A woman points at black mould about the shower curtain of a bathroom
Kaara Benstead shows bathroom mould in her Barnsbury flat. Photo: Julia Gregory/LDR

A mother is calling for landlords to tackle mould and damp urgently after she revealed her concerns about the impact on her family’s health.

Kaara Benstead said the problems in her Barnsbury flat are affecting her three children and fears her teenage son could faces a winter sleeping in the sofa because of damp in his bedroom.

She said her family is not alone in suffering from the impact of mould and damp after the death of Rochdale two-year-old Awaab Ishak because of poor housing conditions highlighted the issue.

Ms Benstead’s council home is in what estate agents describe as “one of the most private and desirable residential roads” and “one of the most sought after streets”.

However said the nineteenth century split level flat is beset by mould and damp and thinks it is exacerbated by a hole in the roof which she said needs fixing urgently.

The family GP wrote a letter highlighting concerns about the impact of the “significant disrepair” at the flat on the family’s heath. He said the family would like to be rehomed because of the impact of work or moving to a temporary home “would be very stressful and triggering for their health”.

Ms Benstead said: “My son has been sleeping on the sofa since September as it gets too damp in his bedroom in the winter.

“His asthma gets really bad in the winter.”

The living room has mould on the window sills and Ms Benstead pointed out problems in other rooms, including mould in the bathroom and a hole in the wall in her son’s old bedroom.

“The hole is so big you could put your hand in,” she said.

The doctor said the 17-year-old student’s asthma had got worse since moving into the flat and he needed hospital treatment for the condition.

The teenager who also has autism is sitting GCSEs this year and Ms Benstead said she was concerned about the stress of living with mould.

Management for the property has been brought in-house by Islington council this year.

However Ms Benstead said she has given up decorating the flat “becauses its pointless” as mould and damp problems reappear.

She said water comes into the bathroom when it rains and the room has been redecorated three times since the family moved in but the mould problem endures.

The family have also abandoned a back bedroom because of problems with damp and mould.

Water was also “running down the wall” by the stairs.

The Housing Ombudsman Richard Ottway has renewed calls on landlords to take a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould and give it a higher priority following Awaab’s death.

Una O’Halloran, Islington council’s executive member for homes and communities, said: “We’re committed to ensuring everyone has a place to call home which is secure, decent and genuinely affordable. We take all issues of mould, damp and disrepair very seriously.

“We’re sorry that Ms Benstead and her family have endured damp and mould at the property and have been working with her and her legal team to progress repairs since responsibility was transferred to us earlier this year.”

She said council workers have now “identified the problem” and will start work to repair the roof.

Cllr O’Halloran added:“We have offered Ms Benstead’s family the option of a temporary move to another property while these works take place, and any other remedial works required inside the property as a result of the leak. We are also liaising with our Tenancy Team about the possibility of a permanent move.”

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