A single mother and her five-year-old daughter have been living with plastic sheeting instead of a ceiling after it caved in months ago, spewing rancid water all over their new furniture and carpets.
The problems started soon after Sasha Simon, a Southwark Council tenant, was moved into the new-build property in Peckham Park Road in August 2013.
“I had no heating and hot water for months and the ceiling in my living room was penetrating some sort of brown liquid. The windows were cracked and the kitchen draws were unusable,” said the 29-year-old.
In August last year, contractors Keepmoat came to repair a leak in the living room ceiling, but the next month it came back worse than before.
When Sasha went away for a few days in November, her mum came to check everything was alright and found the living room ceiling bulging from the weight of the water collecting above.
“I could see the ceiling buckling,” said Sasha’s mum. “I turned on the light and it was sparking, so I got a lamp and saw the water was all over the furniture.” As she touched the swollen ceiling, it collapsed on her, drenching her in what smelt like “rancid river water.”
“When she came back Sasha just broke down completely,” added Sasha’s mum, who is concerned about the effect living in such substandard conditions is having on her daughter and granddaughter.
“These people are crushing my child. If it gets any worse, she’ll be so low she won’t be able to get back up again.”
The workmen who came to fit the temporary polythene ceiling said the problem had been caused by the guttering being fitted with the packaging still on, according to Sasha. Three months later and Sasha and her daughter are still living with no ceiling and no carpets.
“It gets so freezing cold because everything’s open,” said Sasha, who is worried about how the situation is affecting her five-year-old daughter.
“Her teachers say she’s talking about the roof because she’s terrified it’s going to fall in on her,” said Sasha. “It’s not the right environment for a child.”
The new furniture and carpets the whole family had clubbed together to buy were destroyed in the flood and neither the council nor Keepmoat have offered to replace the items lost like for like.
“My whole life has been turned upside down,” said Sasha. “Everything’s been ruined. Everything was newly decorated and no one wants to give that back to us. It was beautiful.”
Sasha’s neighbour, who is living with her nine-year-old grandchild, said she also has a polythene covering in place after her bedroom ceiling collapsed and now has to “play musical beds” to avoid the leaks. The 54-year-old, who did not wish to be named, said: “I didn’t have a light in my bedroom for a year because it was coming through my light socket. When it rains it’s like being in a tent.”
In response to Southwark Council’s pledge to build 11,000 new council homes in the next 30 years, Sasha said: “If they’re building 11,000 like this, they’re not really building anything because they’re falling down.”
Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, Richard Livingstone, said: “I want to apologise to our tenants. Southwark Council is committed to providing the best quality homes for our tenants, which is why we are so disappointed that Keepmoat have provided us with a building that is well below the standard we and our residents can accept.
“We have spoken to Keepmoat and left them in no doubt that we expect this to be resolved – and resolved quickly. We have demanded that they produce a clear plan in the next few days as to how they are going to sort this out. As soon as we have this we will talk to residents and work with them to ensure they are looked after while the repairs are done. I should add that all repairs will be done at Keepmoat’s expense.”
A spokesperson for Keepmoat said they were “working hard to resolve the issues at 125 Peckham Park Road. Full remedial works will soon be underway, and will involve replacing the roof and beams, fixing the heating/hot water system and internal redecoration. The external entrance canopies are also being re-fixed. The work is due to be completed within six to eight weeks, and the tenants will be re-housed for the duration of the works.”