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Vulnerable family forced to eat Christmas dinner on floor after landlord fails to fix flat

Landlord fined £3780 and found guilty of severe maladministration over failures to help family

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 06 February 2024 04:11 GMT
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A mother and her two young children were forced to eat their Christmas dinner on the floor after water flooded their flat and they were moved into temporary accommodation.

The housing ombudsman has ordered their landlord, Yorkshire Housing, to pay nearly £4000 to the family after it found they were guilty of severe maladministration over the handling of the leak, damp and mould.

The mother had raised concerns to the landlord in October 2020 about water coming through her floorboards. The leak was in the main bedroom and there was also a bad smell, a report by the ombudsman found.

On contacting her landlord, she was told that the situation was urgent and a contractor would help within 24 hours. However she had to chase four days later when no one had yet come to fix the leak, with the damp now spreading into the second bedroom and hall.

The mother, who had mental health vulnerabilities, was worried about her own health and about that of her two children, who were both under the age of six, the report said. The bedroom window was also faulty and couldn’t be opened to clear the smell.

Some 3.4 million (38 per cent) of people in the UK with children under the age of six are exposed to mould, either frequently or occasionally (PA)

After contractors came round to assess the problem but did not start any remedial work, the mother contacted the landlord again, explaining that the smell and damp was “so bad that we have to walk on black bags and cardboard boxes to avoid stepping in water”.

On 12th November 2020, the family were offered a new temporary property to live in as the flooring of their flat had to be removed.

In a later email to her landlord, the mother detailed how the move and damp flat had impacted her mental health. She added: “Initially I was told that it would take a few weeks to fix it all and that I should be back in for Christmas... Almost 12 weeks on, I am still no further forward and it is still not fixed.”

She said she had repeatedly explained to Yorkshire Housing that living in temporary accommodation was badly impacting her two young children. The family had to eat their Christmas dinner on the floor and sleep on mattresses for months, the report said.

They had been given no help to move into the new address and had to rope in a friend to help her shift a mattress.

Have you been affected by similar housing problems? Contact to share your story

Once the work to fix the leak had been completed in September 2021, the family were asked to move back in. The housing ombudsman found that Yorkshire Housing had failed to support the family move into their new flat and had also been slow to respond to her initial complaint.

They have ordered that a senior member of staff apologise to the resident, complete all remaining works within six weeks and pay her £3780 in compensation.

Richard Blakeway, at the ombudsman, said: “This is a distressing case where a landlord failed to provide adequate support for a resident with young children and mental health, despite being aware of their condition for over a decade.

“Too often residents’ vulnerabilities are missed or the response is inappropriate. Disrepair in homes, poor communication and dismissive attitudes can exacerbate vulnerabilities.”

Yorkshire Housing said they “fully accept” the findings and were “genuinely sorry for the distress and upset this has caused”. They added that they had completed a review of what had gone wrong and “made several changes to make sure this doesn’t happen again”.

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