Fifty-three-year-old Stephanie Clark, from Croydon, was forced to spend the COVID-19 lockdown period in a home so badly infested with mould that mushrooms began growing in her bathroom.
The former supermarket worker first complained to her landlord, Hyde Housing, in 2008 – which was then known as Metropolitan Housing – just a year after she moved into the three-bedroomed end terrace.
She’d noticed damp patches appearing throughout the house on external walls, but was advised by Hyde Housing to move furniture away from the walls to try to alleviate the issue.
However, after living with the problem for more than 10 years, Stephanie instructed law firm CEL Solicitors, which specialises in housing disrepair, to take action against her landlord to call for works to finally be carried out.
Her case was settled in May, but Hyde Housing breached the terms of their agreement with CEL Solicitors, and repairs have not been carried out.
And, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – and Stephanie being told to self-isolate for 12 weeks due to pre-existing health problem – her home is still filled with mould, with mushrooms recently sprouting from the back of her shower.
In order for repairs to be properly carried out, Stephanie, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), needs to move out of her home. However, due to her health condition, she feels unsafe in doing so during the pandemic and believes works should have been carried out before the problem was able to progress to this level.
Stephanie, who has recently battled thyroid cancer, said: “I’ve been telling Hyde Housing about the severe mould and damp in my house for more than a decade and nothing has been done.
“I’ve been offered the opportunity to move out of my home and into a small flat while repairs are carried out; however, I feel incredibly anxious about going into another property given the current situation as I was told I should be shielding during lockdown.
“Plus, my garden has been my sanctuary during this period and if I was to move into a flat, I would have no outdoor space.
“I completely appreciate that we’re all in unprecedented times and that guidelines have to be followed for works to be done safely, but I also believe that my landlord is relying on Covid-19 as an excuse, as this should’ve ball been resolved years ago.”
Stephanie was initially awarded £5,000 in compensation. CEL Solicitors has continued to assist Stephanie in ensuring the agreed repairs are completed and a suitable temporary property is found. We are now looking to get Stephanie additional compensation for the delay in works and breach of settlement agreement.
The disrepair issues at Stephanie’s home fall under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which came into full force in March this year, creating a legal obligation for both social and private landlords to ensure their properties are safe, healthy and free from hazard.