Mum and four-year-old lived in Lambeth Council flat so damp it had mushrooms growing on the walls

By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter

A four-year-old girl and her mother have spent almost a year living in a tiny studio flat so damp mushrooms are growing on the wall.

Nilza Araujo was placed in the flat in Thornton Heath, Croydon, by Lambeth Council last July.

The 24-year-old is from Portugal and has no family in the UK.

She says the past year has been hell and caused her daughter Maysa’s asthma to get so bad she’s missed weeks and weeks of school.

Nilza Araujo with daughter Maysa (4) at her flat in Croydon which has damp and mushrooms growing from the walls and floor. Photographer: Darren Pepe.

Nilza says recently Maysa has been ill for three weeks out of every month.

Just yesterday (Tuesday, June 22) she had to take her to the emergency department where Maysa was given antibiotics after not sleeping through the night again.

The mum previously lived in Wandsworth Road in South Lambeth and desperately wants to be given a permanent home here, near her daughter’s father and family.

Lambeth Council said it carried out an inspection on the property and ordered repairs in April. After being contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the council said it has offered the mother and daughter alternative accommodation.

Being placed in Thornton Heath meant that Nilza’s daughter, Maysa, has been far away from her father and her school.

Nilza said: “I am about five miles away from my child’s family and her school.

“She is getting ill two weeks every month, she already had asthma and the mushrooms and mould in the house is making it worse.

“It is too much stress for me, I am a concerned mother, my daughter is developing and it is affecting her health.”

Nilza, who works in a bar in Peckham, said her daughter loves books and painting but the studio flat is so small she can’t even have a table for her and the pair have to share a bed.

Photographer Darren Pepe.

And the mum feels like she is being ignored by Lambeth Council – she was initially told she would only be in the flat for 90 days but it is now nearing a year.

“They say they are going to resolve the situation but then I have to start all over again with the next person,” Nilza said.

She has been paying the council £655 a month for the flat and says she feels she is wasting her money.

In Lambeth there are nearly 30,000 people on the social housing waiting list and every night there are 2,700 homeless families in temporary accommodation – including 5,000 children like Maysa.

A council spokesperson said that the demand for homes is the reason families are placed outside of the borough.

They said: “We work hard to ensure that all our temporary accommodation remains in good condition. In response to the concerns this tenant raised, we inspected the property in April and identified repairs that were needed. We served notice on the managing agents to rectify the problems, but they have failed to do so within the required time scales.

“A complaints officer has been liaising between the tenant and the temporary accommodation team to try to sort this out. Because the repairs haven’t been done we have arranged to transfer her to alternative accommodation, and today she is being offered a move to a two-bedroomed flat.”

A spokesperson for Croydon Council said it would investigate the state of the flat.

Councils are able to issue an improvement notice to private landlords.

The spokesperson added: “We had not been made aware of this property being privately rented or there being issues, but we are here to help and will get in touch with the tenant in the first instance.”

Croydon – South London News