Mould on estate ‘so bad one family’s kids have to sleep in the living room’

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Residents living on a rundown South London estate where mould is so bad one family’s kids have to sleep in the living room have urged the local council to take urgent action to improve conditions. People on the Tulse Hill estate claim structural problems with 100-year-old buildings there are causing widespread mould and damp issues that are making them ill and damaging homes. 

They claim their landlord Lambeth Council has failed to maintain homes on the estate or adequately deal with repairs when they have been reported to them. A total of 168 residents have now signed a petition calling on the local authority to commission an independent inspection of buildings on the estate in the hope of sorting out the ongoing damp issues for good.

Manuel Goncalves, a transport worker who has lived on the Tulse Hill estate for nine years, said his children had to sleep in their home’s living room due to severe mould in the bedroom.

He said: “The second room is basically empty. I bought myself two dehumidifiers to take the humidity out, but obviously I had to switch it off. I can’t afford to pay the electricity for the two of them. And so we just closed the room. 

“If there’s a structural problem, it needs to be fixed. Together we aim to show Lambeth Council that structural problems cannot be sorted with cosmetic solutions.”

Another resident, dad Godfrey Asare, said he was fighting a losing battle against damp and mould in the property which he claimed was making his kids ill.

He said: “My children got sick because of the mould. The kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, it’s awful. You wash it, but by the end of the week it comes up again. You don’t want your children to live in that damp.

“Every single day you phone the council, sometimes they turn up, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’ll come and look and say ‘Oh it’s not my job’. It seems like there’s no communication between Lambeth and the contractors.”

Mum Aster Teklu, whose adult son had to move out of her home because the mould in his room was so bad, added: “It’s really frustrating. It’s really hard just to keep going and keep asking the same thing 10 times. Sometimes it makes you want to give up.”

According to Tulse Hill Estate Unites (THEU), a campaign group formed by residents of the estate fed-up with maintenance issues, a senior council employee last year assured them that there were no significant structural issues needing attention in the next 10 years. 

But a freedom of information request revealed that the estate required £7,485,900 of investment over the next decade, including £2,435,800 for maintenance of external blocks such as guttering, drains, and roofing, according to a stock condition survey by Savills. 

THEU claims council employees have previously blamed residents for causing damp by not opening windows and drying clothes inside. Whereas the group believes that structural problems with the estate’s ageing buildings is the root cause of the damp and mould issues. 

Residents from the group handed their petition to the council in April. According to THEU, Lambeth said it would get back to them with a response by mid-May, but members are still waiting for a reply.

Just over two weeks ago THEU held a protest outside the council’s headquarters in Brixton, South London, in frustration at what they described as Lambeth’s ‘systemic failures.’ 

Crystal Watson, a resident of the estate and member of THEU, said: “As a paying tenant, if your rent is late you get a letter or a phone call asking for money. But if your roof falls in, the only thing they do is tell you to move into another room. It’s unacceptable.”

A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “We apologise to Tulse Hill estate residents where services have fallen below acceptable standards. We are committed to improving the quality of our housing services for Lambeth tenants and have made progress which has been recognised by the Housing Ombudsman, but clearly there is more work to do.

“The estate in Tulse Hill is generally high quality housing, but there are issues with the original construction of this estate which means the homes have a lack of venting which presents ongoing issues. We have carried out a day of action at Tulse Hill with our repairs team and surveyors on hand to carry out property inspections and repairs. We also have a series of estate action days and a meet the landlord tour to engage with our tenants.

“We are committed to tackling problems quickly and fairly, and we have worked intensively with residents to improve the way we respond to complaints. Our stock condition survey has also allowed us to target the homes most urgently in need of repairs. 

“Despite continuing reductions in government funding, Lambeth has invested hundreds of millions of pounds in improving our council homes and estates in recent years. We have also awarded 10 repair and maintenance contracts to new providers as part of our drive to improve standards and services for council tenants.”

Photos: Disrepair in flat on the Tulse Hill estate in Lambeth.

Damp in bedroom of Manuel Goncalves’s flat on the Tulse Hill estate.

Protestors from Tulse Hill Estate Unites (THEU) demonstrating outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton, South London on May 16, 2024. Credits: High Trees


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