Action by June – Full write up of our damp public meeting

Thanks to all 35 residents who came to our public meeting on damp. Cllr Brathwaite said our landlords will publish and share investment plans by June. Every month our landlords will provide results of surveys and work to be done. Here’s full details of what happened

Present:

  • Cll Brathwaite, Lambeth cabinet member on Housing and Deputy Leader of Council
  • Cllr Mary Atkins
  • Residents: Stephen Kearney, Chris Blake, Saleha Jaffer, Terry Cooper, Justine Harrison, Amanda Smith, Peter, Sola, Mark Mann, Louise Zecevic, Craig Williams, Pedro Fenick, Lina Nsiamundele, Gifty Aggrey, Jamil Khaoui, Tricia Ghant, James Allen, Alice Sparing, Saba, Katerina Kaczorova, Ronke, Peter Hunt, Feven Tekeste, Elisha and Matt DaCosta, Nick Oung, Olivia Bua Otema, Neha, Marta Russam, and Terry Curtis
  • ACORN: Frankie Hall, Will Singh & Dave Aldwinkle
  • High Trees: Graham Weston & Jawad Anjum

1. Introduction by Chair

2. Damp stories of residents: (Apologies if notes are not complete)

Gary Downey Damp at entrance to block caused by blocked drain.

Craig Williams of Hart House said fuse box affected by flooding in basement. Although Optivo staff had taken pictures of damp when staff moved on the pictures had been mislaid and he had got nowhere with Optivo who said that his damp was internal and he was a leaseholder and therefore Optivo not fully responsible. He had received compensation but Optivo would not accept basement flooding a cause.

Amanda Smith, Jamie Cook, Sola, Gifty and K& B Sithole, affected by damp.

Peter Hunt. Mould in bathroom & other rooms, had to wipe down on a yearly basis. Not been visited yet.

Katerina Kaczorova. Baldwin Top floor.Damp in bathroom since Feb 2019. Water came down from Ceiling into electrics. Optivo said open windows. 2 surveys. Told by Optivo that because residents had cleaned flat Optivo would not look at it. But 16 March there had been a proper survey and told cause of damp had been from roof. Query whether lead had been stolen from roof. She had asthma.

Tricia G from Williams. Surveyed last year. Mildew on clothes and stinks. Has been offered what appears to be dry lining

Alice from Godolphin House since 2009. Mould various rooms. She had been told by surveyor there was a river beneath building and so damp couldn’t be tackled. Also leakages from upstairs. Water came through bathroom ceiling onto lights, so had had to stay in Travel lodge fro 2 weeks. Damp had been an issue for 12 years. She was at Stage 2 complaint.

Sylvia 4th floor Godolphin Damp in bathroom & 3 rooms for 10 years. She had refurbished flat herself.As she was a leaseholder NHG had denied responsibility and said damp caused by life-style. NHG had insisted she instruct 2 surveyors at her own cost but refused to disclose findings of their own surveyor. NHG would only respond to her lawyers until she could no longer afford a lawyer. Her child could now not take antibiotics and had developed asthma. She had seen Chuka Umuna, MP who said his powers were limited.

Terry Cooper said a 92 year old living 123 Abbotts Park had been hospitalized, and damp had been a factor. There had been 2 unusable bedrooms. She had recently died.

3. Legal Action

Cllr Brathwaite said she had heard enough. The TRA should emphasise this as an equalities issue where black and other demographic minorities are the ones to suffer, and where many households have single mothers.

Council had started Discovery proceedings, i.e. insisting that the HAs disclose all documents including surveys, and will see every block survey by end of April. Then HAs will publish and share investment plans by June. Every month HAs will provide results of surveys and work to be done.

Dry lining which is the creation of a small gap between 2 walls has been shown to create a bridging gap which appears to solve problem for at least a year.

BUT there may be in inherent defects caused by age and construction of flats, in which case only solution to damp is to rebuild. It is unlikely that surveyors would recommend that solution.

HAs had admitted they had not taken problem seriously, but changed their mind when Lambeth had threatened legal action. Cllr Brathwaite knows of no other London borough taking enforcement action like this.HAs had requested withdrawal of legal action but they are being told that Council is not withdrawing threat. HAs had been embarassed by constant media coverage including in Inside Housing. This was based on a press release by Louise Zecevic

Council can serve Improvement Notice on each flat.

(Council could serve Prohibition Order which would stop blocks being used as homes leading to demolition, and Lambeth could also do work and re-charge to HAs. These 2 remedies are unlikely)

Sandra, Council officer, was on top of this.

Terry Curtis said he and Stephen Kearney as residents had been attending HA STEERING GROUP which was organising surveys and work, but we were hamstrung in not knowing what Council actions were. Cllr Brathwaite said she had been told that Council officers could not attend those meetings because they were supposed to be neutral, but it was open to a local councillor, i.e. Cllr Atkins to attend, who should ensure residents had sight of relevant Council documents. She also thought it would be sensible to get an independent and qualified employee to attend on our behalf.

Formal request has been made to Cllr Brathwaite for assistance of suitably qualified person to assist reps to Steering Group

Cllr Brathwaite asked for terms of reference for Steering Group. This has now been supplied

Pedro Fenick of Godolphin said dry lining was not a permanent solution and mould would slowly build up over 4-5 years. He added that he did not see how the damp in Godolphin House could be caused by a submerged river because St Martins Estate was on elevated ground.

Cllr Brathwaite said there could be s.20 costs but if HAs at fault residents can go to Tier 1 tribunal. Whether dry lining is an improvement or a repair and whether there is a cost may depend on looking at lease.

Chris Blake said we knew that 101 residents had made complaints on damp.

Cllr Brathwaite said she was changing roles at Lambeth and Maria Kay was taking over as Cabinet member on housing.

Councillors Atkins and Brathwaite then left.

4. Next Steps

ACORN Frankie Hall made presentation. This was a nationwide organisation with thousands of members where Acorn campaigned for and assisted members of the working class on campaigns such as housing. Value would lie in strategising Cost was equivalent of 1 hours wages a month from each member, and if no job then cost would be £3 pm Only individuals can join ACORN.  Organisations like the St Martins Residents Association cannot join. 

Residents thought Acorn was a useful organisation to be involved with, but it was not clear what its contribution would be at present.

Chris Blake suggests two ways to keep the campaign visible

A video of residents telling their story which will we’ll try and make go viral on YouTube.  This can happen immediately.

If our landords do not produce a block by block investment plan by an agreed deadline we will ask complaints to deliver a large photo petition to Metropolitan offices in Clapham Park.  This photo petition will have pictures of what their damp looks like”

It was agreed to consider both this and assoc with Acorn at next committee meeting Wed 7 April 18:30 when Pedro Fenick, Gary Downey, Sola, Feren and Th.. were also invited to attend and discuss.

Meeting ended 20:45


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