Shocking pictures show the inside of a block of flats which experts say are the “worst conditions they’ve ever seen”.
With thick layers of black mould and water dripping through the ceiling, residents in the 11-floor building in Croydon, South London, say they feel they are “not even human”.
Both the chief executive of housing charity Shelter and a former head of the UK Health and Safety Executive have said they have never seen worse living conditions.
Fransoy Hewitt, who lives on the ground floor of the Croydon Council-owned in South Norwood, told ITV News the way she has been treated “makes me feel like I am not even human”.
She said: “I’m not coping. There is only so much I can get angry about and pull my hair out – I just feel like I’m going to kill myself if I continue like that.”
The mum-of-two said floors are soaking wet, and she’s had to unplug the fridge to prevent electrocution after mould took over the kitchen.
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On top of that she has no light in the bathroom, her sofa has been destroyed along with many of her children’s shoes and toys.
As a result, the family-of-three are forced to cook, eat, play and sleep in just one room, despite contacting the council at least 20 times.
Fransoy believes the mould and damp in the flat is making her whole family sick, as she suffers constant headaches and has to put vapour rub on her youngest son’s chest to help him breathe at night.
Leroy McNally, who lives on the floor above, said he has been forced to put buckets in the living room to collect dripping water, telling ITV: “Every night I go to bed at twelve, and I wake up at 6am to empty the buckets.”
One man, who didn’t want to be identified, said the dripping in his home got so bad in his flat that he had to sleep in a tent in his living room.
Dame Judith Hackitt, former Chair of the UK Health and Safety Executive, said the flats were the worst housing conditions she had ever seen.
Dame Judith – who led the government’s independent inquiry into building safety and regulation following the Grenfell Tower fire – said: “When I talked to residents in the wake of Grenfell, when I talked to residents in other tower blocks as part of my review, one of the common complaints from residents was ‘nobody listens to us – we express our concerns and nobody acts on it.
“That, I’m afraid, is typical. That is one of the fundamental cultural issues we’ve got to get over – where someone actually feels responsible and takes responsibility for fixing things.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “This is really bad. It’s definitely the worst I’ve seen, just in terms of the sheer unlivability of it. I mean, there really isn’t any possible way, that those properties are fit for human habitation.
“Can you even imagine having to live like that… in lockdown? There’s absolutely no excuse for it at all.”
And Jeff Charlton, an independent environmental hygienist, said: “This is the kind of property I would expect to see in a run-down area in the 1970s. It’s hard to believe this is Britain in 2021.”
In a statement Croydon Council admitted conditions were “not acceptable”.
It said: “We were very concerned to learn of these issues at these properties, and the photographs we have seen show conditions that are clearly not acceptable.
“Although we have fixed leaks and electrical issues as recently as February at these properties and have had no complaints since, things have clearly got worse for these residents and we are taking immediate action to put things right.
“We are sorry that these residents have not had the level of care for their homes that they rightly expect, and we will be looking into what has happened as a matter of urgency.”