A young mother in Aylesbury has contacted this paper to say that she believes the health of her four-month-old baby is being put at risk due to her appalling living conditions in social housing.
Katie Blythe, 22, told us that she has been complaining to her landlord and the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust for nearly two years about the damp and mould throughout her flat, with little or no success.
We visited the property in order to speak to Katie and see the issues for ourselves.
Firstly looking at the condition of the windows, we could immediately see that the seals appeared to be rotten and the locks broken. Temporary latches had been fitted for security but this means that at least one of the windows cannot now be opened at all.
Katie said that she first raised the issue with the windows nearly two years ago, telling us:
"The repairs manager has refused to deal with my windows,” adding, “he's fobbed me off and passed it on to someone else because he doesn't want to deal with it.”
While demonstrating that she can fit her hand out of the window when it is closed, Katie said:
“None of the windows are sealed. I can fit all my fingers in there and probably more. It doesn't shut at the bottom. I've been told numerous times that they can't get parts for the windows, they can't replace the windows because they don't do them anymore and then suddenly next door get their whole window replaced.”
Now that the weather is getting colder, mould is starting to regularly form around the window frames, close to where her newborn baby sleeps.
“I don't think they realise how dangerous mould is to a baby,” Katie said.
She then told us how a major leak from the flat next door in the summer of 2018 had caused her bathroom wall to 'bow' and damp and mould to form on the walls and floor in both the bathroom and beneath the wardrobe in her bedroom.
“They had a huge leak next door and it's spread through into my flat. The wall in my bathroom had bowed and was wobbling, it's spread through to my wardrobe and the repairs manager was meant to replace a board in the bottom of my wardrobe that had gone mouldy but that hasn't happened.”
Pointing to the wooden boards nailed to her bathroom wall, Katie continued:
“Obviously there's mould behind these but they've just left that because it can't be seen now so it's absolutely fine to them.”
Katie then turned our attention towards the boiling hot metal pipes running all around the walls of the flat, only an inch off the ground. With a baby soon to be crawling, the young mother told us she has been trying for about ten months to get them covered. She has just received notice that someone will be coming to look at them in two weeks time.
Finally, Katie said there have been numerous false fire alarms in the block of flats since she gave birth 16 weeks ago, including in the middle of the night, meaning that she has had to stand outside in the cold for over an hour each time with her baby.
We informed both the county councillor for the ward, Steven Lambert, and the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust (VAHT) of what we had seen and sent our photos to them.
The Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust provided this statement:
“We completely understand Ms Blythe’s frustration and are sorry that we haven’t resolved the issue raised right away.
“We are working closely with Ms Blythe, visiting her home on Tuesday this week to agree repairs needed. A surveyor is also attending this week to do a damp survey and listen to Ms Blythe’s concerns.
“We can confirm that there was a false activation of the fire alarm on 24 October at Rothschild House which was resolved by our fire services contractor, we are not aware of any further false alarms. We know false activations are irritating and it is important that residents inform us of them so we can reset the system and maintain the alarm integrity.
“We will continue to listen and act on Ms Blythe’s concerns, and are confident that we will bring this to an agreeable conclusion for her.”