Sheffield Council homes face serious damp and mould issues

Many residents of council houses in Sheffield have been struggling with the effects of damp and mould infestations in their homes and some feel they are in “a constant battle” when trying to get help to fix the situation.

These damp and mould problems have recently become increasingly more worrying and important after the death of 2-year-old Awaak Ishak in December 2020 in Rochdale, who passed away due to mould in the family’s one-bedroom flat.

In the Housing Performance Report for Quarter 3 of 2022/23, the Sheffield City Council notes that there has been a “​​significant increase in damp and mould reports following the increased media attention and recent tragic case of Awaab Ishak”.

In response to this, they have created a dedicated damp and mould team who are supposedly treating cases within five days. 

This report also states that they anticipate future damp and mould reports will remain significantly high.

In the same report, their repairs and maintenance performance table shows that in January 2023, there were 134 overdue orders of damp work.

One of those people waiting for work to be done is Chloe Dylla, whose elderly parents live on Ridgeway Road, Gleadless, and who first requested the council to see to their problems over a year ago. 

Mrs Dylla said: “When it rains or snows, the rain pours in through the top of the window frame. There is a wooden lintel above the window outside that is rotten and where the water is entering through”.

She explained that they had been told there would be scaffolding put up to fix the issue but that this never happened and her elderly parents are back to having to put towels and pans on the windowsill, “constantly mopping up water through the day and night”.

Mrs Dylla then requested another repair appointment which was scheduled on a specific date between 8 and 12 noon. She says they did not turn up and that she was often in a very long queue of callers when trying to contact someone to explain what was happening.  

“Who really wants to be on the phone that long?” Mrs Dylla said.

She also said that after finally speaking to someone on the phone, she was told it was an open repair “and that’s all they could tell me”.

Mrs Dylla’s parents now feel that there is “no point asking for repairs” and have resorted to packing the window with cling film and are constantly having to take down their blinds if it rains so they don’t ruin another set.

Another resident from Sheffield who asked not to be named was also deeply unsatisfied with the council saying “They’re doing the most they can get away with”.

This source who lives with their mother said “I can’t understand how they’ve managed to get away with it for as long as they have. Many tend to blame the political parties who are in charge each time, but we’ve been in the same situation since moving into this house in the mid-90s, and my mother had issues before I was even a thought with them”.

They stated that “more transparency and accountability” from Sheffield City Council would be “the very bare minimum they could do”.

The anonymous source said that in March 2021, a surveyor inspected the property and noted down a variety of repairs such as issues with ceilings in the bedroom, living room and kitchen from leaks prior and mould next to the front door which was most likely caused by the gaps letting through cold and moisture through the years. 

Sheffield City Council then inspected the property around a year later and some work was carried out at the end of last year, although “they refused to do anything to my mother’s ceiling despite being told to by the surveyor”.

They mentioned that these issues have affected their daily lives and their mother can’t sleep in her room and has been sleeping on the sofa downstairs for several years, taking a toll on their overall mental health.

This source pointed out they felt as if the council “do not put the interests of their residents or even their duty of care to them over their own pockets” after seeing poor investments being made into projects such as the Fargate container park, which continues to be a point of controversy in Sheffield.

Furthermore, in a Housing Policy Committee meeting on March 17th 2023 Emily Wilson, a candidate for councillor in the Broomhill and Sharrow Vale ward, spoke passionately about her encounters with people who are struggling with damp and mould issues. 

Emily Wilson mentioned that she had been brought to the attention of a lot of issues with damp and mould on the Hanover Estate but that this was a much wider issue across the city.

She showed a photo of a child’s bed with black mould across the covers, saying the child had been up all night with breathing issues due to the mould, and then proceeded to show a pile of photos that she had collected from other families.

In response, Councillor Douglas Johnson said: “This committee has been very taken up by the issue of damp and mould” calling it an “important public service”.

Councillor Johnson also said: “Where we are notified of damp and mould issues, be sure that officers attend to that pretty quickly. It doesn’t mean we can always fix the problems straight away…but there is always now an inspection pretty promptly”.

Written by Olivia Harris

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