Woman Told Mould in Her Home Was Due to Her Breathing

Threatened with repossession when she withheld rent due to lack of repairs

Emma had to fight for three years to get Notting Hill Genesis to carry out repairs
Emma had to fight for three years to get Notting Hill Genesis to carry out repairs. Picture: Facundo

March 29, 2024

A woman living in the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham who said she was told that her breathing was causing mould has spoken of the ‘soul destroying’ experience of spending three years fighting for repairs to her home.

Emma, who did not wish to give her second name, said her landlord Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) has taken months to carry out works and communicated poorly when issues have arisen at her Shepherd’s Bush property, leading to her resorting to actions including withholding rent and service charge payments.

An NHG spokesperson said they recognise it has taken too long to deal with the mould and ‘sincerely apologise that this is the case’. They added the association is working closely with Emma and visited her home this month ‘to discuss her frustrations face-to-face’.

Emma told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) soon after moving in December 2020 she noticed issues such as rotting woodwork in her property. Water would also run in under her front door and later under her back door too, causing damage including warping her carpet, which she had to remove.

While repairs were eventually carried out, Emma said they took ‘months’, with only basic fixes implemented.

“Ever since then I have had a mould and a damp problem,” she said. “Over those three years, I have been quite persistent with them in informing them and showing them photos. They probably thought I was quite a pest if I’m going to be honest with you, but that was due to the lack of communication from their side and me not knowing where I stood with them.”

Among the most concerning areas where she found mould spreading has been in her bedroom. The LDRS has seen photos of mould on her walls, her clothes and along her bed’s headboard, which she ended up having to replace.

Emma said despite her continually raising the issue, alongside other residents living in the block, NHG failed to carry out sufficient repairs. To crown it off, she claims that on one occasion, she was told by a surveyor, during what she said was the only inspection of her home, the mould was due to her breathing.

Seeking support, Emma said that last year she got in touch with the Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) group. She subsequently decided to withhold rent and service charge payments in protest over the lack of work taking place, in the hope it would improve her situation.

“Nothing else was working,” she said. “Maybe if I went down this route maybe they would meet me halfway, see that I’m withholding, they don’t want me to withhold, go back, let’s sort my property, let’s fix things.”

What followed was a protracted and, for Emma, incredibly stressful period in which she was unsure if she was going to lose her home.

According to Emma, despite having stopped withholding and paid the charges in full, in December she received a repossession notice from NHG’s lawyers claiming she was in arrears. She responded explaining why she had withheld and that she had settled the accounts, before receiving a call in January from her mortgage lenders, who said they had been instructed to repossess the property due to her still having not paid.

Mould on the inside of Emma's front door
Mould on the inside of Emma's front door

She said she was eventually able to resolve the issue, though felt rattled after being told her home would potentially be taken from her, despite having paid NHG months prior. She also claimed NHG had been aware of her transferring the money, but continued to request the property be repossessed.

“Everything to do with this company trying to, I don’t even know what they are trying to do apart from repossess my property and get me kicked out.”

Emma has since filed a stage one and more recently a stage two complaint with NHG, due to what she believes were serious issues in the way the housing association took steps to repossess her home.

Emma and her neighbour’s homes are currently covered in scaffolding, with work being done to repair damage to the roof. This is after NHG sent workers last year to carry out works without including the roof in the plans, despite residents’ requests.

Emma said the mould had spread from her walls onto items including her clothes and bed. Picture: Facundo

The LDRS also spoke to another resident who echoed much of Emma’s concerns, in particular around the lack of care taken around repairs.

“Every single thing that I do, sometimes it’s so soul destroying being here. I’m living with mould. They told me for three years I do not have a problem. Well something is wrong, because every time I wipe it away it comes back,” Emma said.

“All I’m asking them to do is to be more transparent and try to trust what the residents are saying and communicate with those residents,” she later added.

A spokesperson for NHG said, “We recognise it has taken too long to deal with the mould here and sincerely apologise that this is the case. We are working very closely with Emma and visited her at home this month to discuss her frustrations face-to-face.

“A surveyor was due to attend on March 21 to carry out a detailed inspection, but for good reason Emma had to cancel. We will return at a time convenient to Emma to investigate the potential causes of mould growth where it has occurred, perform moisture readings throughout her home and look at any other problems raised.

“We want to rebuild trust with Emma and have appointed a senior property management officer to work directly with her until these issues are resolved. More broadly, we remain committed to improving the quality of residents’ homes and are investing £0.5 billion over the next 10 years into this, including work to tackle damp and mould where it is found.”

Ben Lynch - Local Democracy Reporter