Family living in London ‘slum’ estate ‘riddled with mice, slugs and cockroaches’
Mice, slugs, and mouldy walls so black they look burnt are just some of the issues desperate residents are having to cope with on a London estate.
Among the residents finding it hard to live in the rundown properties offered by Clarion Housing in the Eastfields Estate in Mitcham, is the Ahmad family.
The family-of-five had their food stolen by mice at the height of the pandemic, when panic buying meant essentials could easily run out.
Yet far from being shocked, the family are used to rodents roaming around their property and scurrying around their kitchen worktops.
They claim they were met by 10 mice when they first moved in.
The Ahmads are also not alone in their battle against pests.
Other Eastfields residents are so used to unwelcome guests they jokingly say the creatures “should be paying rent”.
In addition to the mice, there are infestations of cockroaches, slugs in bathrooms, and huge rats in communal areas.
Dark mould ripples through the walls and water leaking into electric sockets risks turning the buildings into potential death traps.
When MyLondon visited the estate last week, reporters struggled for breath in the halls from the damp air.
Filthy underwear could be seen lying in broken sections of the wall and the black mould stains on the outside of the building were so bad the photographer thought there had been a fire.
They found disrepair at almost every turn.
Residents told the news outlet they feel like they are living in “slums” that would “fail almost every health and safety standard“.
They say the landlords, housing association Clarion Housing, have allegedly ignored their pleas for repair work for years.
Some have even been forced to take legal action to improve conditions, and are involved in an ongoing case over Environmental Protection Act breaches due to go to court at the end of the month.
Responding to these allegations a Clarion Housing Group spokesperson apologised to residents “on its repairs performance“.
They said: “There are some cases where we have fallen short of the standards they have a right to expect.
“Our immediate priority is to dedicate more staff to the estate, to increase the speed at which we complete both communal and individual repairs.”
They added: “Homes on the Eastfields Estate are coming to the end of their life and are in need of demolition and regeneration.
“Subject to approval from the council, our long-term regeneration programme will see the area transformed.”
Frustrated by the prospect of waiting for a long-term redevelopment and faced with grim conditions, the residents are fighting back.
For the Ahmad family, moving from temporary accommodation in Crystal Palace to a rented property in Mitcham was a fresh start – or so they thought.
The family say they have lost count of the number of times they have complained to Clarion about living conditions on Eastfields, who allegedly responded with: “You’ve just got to deal with it.”
Damp walls, leaks, and mould that has grown so large it caused a hallway mirror to smash into pieces are just some of the endless problems the family have encountered.
They told MyLondon: “We had a dangerous leak for three years, three years with no solution.
“It’s not like we were sitting and doing nothing, we were constantly complaining, but we didn’t get any help at all.
“If the water went into the fuse box, it could have caused a fire, but they (Clarion Housing) said they couldn’t move it.
“They said it was to do with money. If we didn’t take that step, that fuse box might have been the reason we wouldn’t be here today.”
‘Biggest mistake of my life’
MyLondon also found multiple cases of other residents with dangerous leaks that had got into or around fuse boxes.
Beverly Codd, another Clarion resident who lives on the estate, grew up there shortly after it was built in 1951.
She describes her return to Eastfields in 2016 as the “biggest mistake of her life”.
Beverly was at her wit’s end after a leak began in the cupboard in her hallway from the property above, who was a private tenant and “was not cooperating” with her.
Eventually, Beverly had to take matters into her own hands.
She claims she had to call the London Fire Brigade to knock down her neighbours door to turn the water off, as Clarion Housing said it was the responsibility of the private tenants.
But it was too late, as mould was growing extensively in Beverly’s wardrobe and bedroom, leaving Beverly with no choice but to knock her wardrobe down and throw away eight bags of mouldy clothes, a bed and a new wardrobe unit.
After discovering a major leak behind the bath panel that was “running like a tap” and measuring three inches high behind the bath panel, Beverly’s complaint was initially overlooked by the housing association.
“Clarion said, ‘we don’t know if it’s an emergency’ – which it clearly was,” she said.
“It was so bad, slugs started appearing on my bathmat. From day one, I’ve had nothing but problems.
“I thought moving back here would be good, but it was the biggest mistake of my life. It’s just awful.”
Only some of Beverly’s repairs have been fixed, as rotten carpets, discoloured, damp walls, unpleasant smelling mould in the kitchen and broken fences are yet to be resolved.
Clarion Housing, also known as Clarion Housing Group, owns and manages around 10,000 homes in the London borough of Merton.
‘It took a 22 year old knocking on doors’
Kwajo Tweneboa, 22, has emerged as a leader for unhappy residents.
The South London native tragically lost his father to cancer whilst living in appalling conditions he believes contributed to his dad’s ill health.
But Kwajo, who shared his story with My London last month , has been on a mission to improve things for his neighbours.
Knocking on doors around his neighbourhood, Kwajo built a mountain of evidence documenting the terrible disrepair on the estate.
His work caught the attention of ITV News, who will feature some of their stories in a report due to be broadcast tonight (Wednesday, June 16).
Kwajo did not stop there as he arranged a meeting between residents and Clarion last Friday (June 11).
But just hours before it was due to take place, Clarion pulled out.
A spokesperson for Clarion said they decided not to attend “because we learned that a TV film crew had been invited”.
They added: “ITV were not transparent about their intentions to film the meeting. We discovered they intended to film and contacted ITV to corroborate.
“At that point ITV admitted they were planning to film but said as it was a public meeting they didn’t think they needed to notify us in advance.”
Clarion then made the decision to withdraw as it didn’t believe a public meeting filmed by the media would be productive.
On the same day as the meeting, Clarion’s Chief Operating Officer, Michelle Reynolds, took the unprecedented step of sending a letter to everyone on the estate on the topic of repairs.
The housing association board member announced that an office would be set up on site for dealing with issues as well as a dedicated email address and phone number for reporting.
She also promised that Clarion would go door to door to hear people’s concerns.