Hospital worker says council have taken more than two years to fix ‘chronic mould’
- Credit: Mick Riley
A council flat tenant and hospital worker living in “chronic mould” has said an authority blaming Covid-19 for not cleaning up the problem is “disappointing”.
Mick Riley, a security officer at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), says that while he is grateful for Great Yarmouth Council housing his family when they were homeless, they have now been battling with the problem of mould for two-and-a-half years.
Mr Riley, who lives with his wife and two sons on Dorset Close in the Middlegate Estate, said: “I understand that private landlords who leave their tenants in unsafe conditions should be clamped down on.
“But it’s just ironic because some of the council’s own properties are in such a state.
“Since moving here, I’ve actually developed a chronic chest infection and become insulin-dependent. My son also has asthma.
“We can’t be sure that the mould has made our problems worse - but it definitely hasn’t helped.
“Touch wood I haven’t got Covid-19 yet, but I am exposed to it by working at the A&E department at the JPUH.
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“If for any reason I did have to self-isolate it would be in less-than-ideal conditions.”
The council’s Selective Licensing Scheme involves routine inspections of private landlords in the Nelson Ward area, who must then fix the hazards identified in its property.
But council homes are not subject to the same scrutiny.
According to Phil Thompson, a landlord in the area for more than 30 years, this allows the council to “avoid accountability” and operate “double standards” with regards to residents’ living conditions.
In a statement, however, Great Yarmouth Council refuted that they have been slow to take action on the issues in Mr Riley’s flat.
They said: “The council is aware of issues with condensation and mould in parts of this property, and works have already been undertaken to try to address this issue, including mould washes, provision of a dehumidifier and installation of passive vents.
“Unfortunately, the ability to visit and undertake works at tenanted properties has been very limited in recent weeks due to coronavirus restrictions, and it is not possible to program future works for the same reason.
“However, the tenant has been assured that a damp survey to seek to establish the full extent and the cause of the mould will be arranged and completed as soon as practically possible, on a date convenient for the tenant.
“Some damp issues are caused by condensation, which is often caused by how a property is used and in particular how the property is heated and the amount of moisture generated by the household.
“In other cases, mould problems do result in the council needing to undertake repairs works to the property, and such works will be identified following the survey.”
Mr Riley, in response to the council’s claims, said that Covid-19 was a “poor excuse” - given that they have known about the issue for years and have promised to continue dealing with “significant hazards to human health” in private properties.He said: “The mould washes are good for a few weeks before the damp returns, the vents they installed were without baffles - meaning icy wind blows into my son’s bedroom from outside - and the dehumidifier they only gave to us for six weeks over the winter.
“We appreciate just how apologetic the council are about this, and we’re realistic about what can be done now under lockdown, but blaming Covid-19 is disappointing.”
According to the tenant, who is also a community representative for Dorset Close, it seems the council have “got it in their heads” that the mould is caused by the way the tenants use the property.
“On multiple occasions they’ve told us we just need to open the windows and spend less time in the flat”, he said.
“But I work 60 hours a week and my sons work permanent night shifts in Tesco. All we do is work and sleep - we couldn’t spend less time here if we tried.”