Council Housed Woman and Her Children in Mouldy Flat

Forced to sleep in mattress in living room due to the damp

Dionne Davidson in the Croydon flat she was moved into by Wandsworth Council. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

December 19, 2023

A 37-year-old mother-of-three says she has been sleeping on a mattress with her toddler in their living room for months after feeling like she “couldn’t breathe” due to mould in one of the bedrooms. Dionne Davidson said the two-bed flat in Croydon she was moved into by Wandsworth Council is also unsuitable as it is overcrowded and it takes up to 90 minutes to drive her children to school, costing at least £70 a week in petrol.

Ms Davidson claimed the flat is the third “inadequate” temporary accommodation she has been moved into by the council since 2021, owned by a private landlord, with her three children – aged nine, eight and two. She has been living there since March this year after she was served a Section 21, no-fault eviction notice by her previous landlord. The council offered her new temporary accommodation in Wandsworth in late November, which she is set to move into in the coming days.

The mum told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) she is “relieved” to know her family will be moving out of the property into somewhere more suitable, but that it has taken a toll on their physical and mental health. She submitted a complaint to the council about the flat on 13 October.

Ms Davidson said she has been fighting for the wellbeing of her kids and feels like she has not been heard. She told the LDRS, “My ultimate thing is to trust that they’ve looked for somewhere decent and long term and it’s never been long term… I’m having to upheave and move again because the property has disrepair or there’s issues.”

The council said it disputes some of the claims, but accepts Ms Davidson is unhappy in the property and has arranged for her to be rehoused. Ms Davidson said, “The council knew my circumstances before they moved me in here, so I’m just confused as to why I was put from a three-bedroom into a two-bedroom flat where we’re overcrowded. And what makes it even worse is the back [bedroom] is out of use.”

She said the bedroom is also infested with small brown bugs. When she was sleeping there, she said, “I was getting this cough and I felt like I literally couldn’t breathe. And then I said, you know what? I’m getting myself out of here because I can’t sleep in here. So I just sleep on the mattress on the floor in the front room.”

She added one of her daughters has a “cough because of the mould and damp” in the flat, while her asthma has got “progressively worse” since living there. Their belongings have also been damaged by mould, she said.

Rent Connect said it had not received any reports of damp or condensation through its official portal, and that it treats its occupiers’ wellbeing with the “utmost importance”. Ms Davidson is also concerned the flat is a “fire hazard” as she has experienced multiple power cuts since living there, which she said has left the family without lighting “for days on end” and “brushing their teeth in the dark”. She claimed there is a hole and exposed wires in the roof.

She said, “I would wake up in the morning, go and turn on the light and there would be a massive spark and a pop, and I’d be like the electricity’s tripped again. When it started happening time and time again, that’s what made me realise that there’s a more serious problem here.”

Ms Davidson says the damp damaged her family's possessions
Ms Davidson says the damp damaged her family's possessions. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Ms Davidson has reported power cuts and issues with lighting to Rent Connect multiple times since moving in. She claimed contractors did not visit the property to inspect the roof and start fixing it until November. She said: “My son [says] he doesn’t want to live here anymore and he hates this flat. He’ll just say what he says because he’s innocent, he doesn’t know. He’s bed wetting because he doesn’t want to go down that dark hallway when there’s been no lighting in here to go to the toilet.”

She told the LDRS the distance of the property from her children’s school, her workplace and the family’s support network has made life even more difficult. She said her kids are “exhausted” as they sometimes have to leave the flat by 6.45am to get to school, and that they had been late multiple times.

“I’m just trying to get the hell out of here. I’m far away from the kids’ school, I’m far away from work and I don’t know why they’ve moved me down here,” she said. “I appreciate there’s an overwhelming housing crisis… but surely they have to do something based on the actual circumstances of each family.”

She added she is over 400th on the housing waiting list, in band B, which has not changed since she moved into the flat. She continued, “I feel concerned and it’s overwhelming to know that the future holds me not being settled with my children. I’m trying my best to sustain a job, be a mum and look after my children because I have a duty of care for them, but I just feel that I’ve been let down by the system.”

A Rent Connect spokesperson said it prides itself on “providing clean, safe and high-quality living spaces” for occupiers. They said it is committed to “excellence in accommodation standards” and “continuously improving” its services.

The spokesperson added, “We would like to emphasise that our accommodations meet stringent standards, and we have not received any reports of issues such as damp or condensation through our official company portal. Our occupier’s wellbeing and satisfaction are of the utmost importance to us. It is our policy to act with urgency and diligence in addressing any concerns brought to our attention. Had there been reports of dampness or condensation, we assure you that we would have taken immediate action to investigate, rectify, and ensure the wellbeing of our occupiers.

“We remain committed to maintaining transparency and open communication with both the media and our clients. If some specific cases or instances need to be addressed, we encourage occupiers to report them promptly through our established channels, allowing us to address any concerns swiftly.”

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said, “While we dispute a number of the claims being made here, we accept that Ms Davidson is unhappy living in this address and so have arranged for her to be rehoused in another property within the borough and are just awaiting final confirmation of the date she and her children can move into that new address, which should be in the next few days. We are in contact with her to arrange that.”

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter