My damp and mouldy flat is making me ill'
PUBLISHED: 15:04 24 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:42 07 September 2010
A FAMILY that has been living in Highgate without heating or hot water since December is demanding to be moved after years of misery
A FAMILY that has been living in Highgate without heating or hot water since December is demanding to be moved after years of misery.
Stella Nwokocha and her daughter Chichi have lived in a council-owned flat in Rowlands Close since 1991 and there have been constant water leaks because of a cracked pipe underneath their living room.
They have both developed respiratory problems they believe are a direct result of living in such a damp environment. Now the situation is so bad the whole flat smells and black mould covers most surfaces, while fungus grows out of the skirting boards.
Ms Nwokocha, a nurse at the Whittington Hospital, said: "We have had no heating or hot water since December. The council sent someone to fix it and they said we would have to move out. We filled in forms to get the process started in November but we've heard nothing since.
"We are angry, tired, frustrated and upset - these conditions are completely unacceptable to live in and it seems like the council just doesn't care.
"The whole place is black with mildew. There is fungus growing in the kitchen because of the damp and I have developed a respiratory problem which gave me such a bad cough that I actually burst a blood vessel in my eye."
Her daughter Chichi, 20, is studying English literature and hopes to become a lawyer, but she has to store her books in plastic boxes to stop them rotting.
She said: "A lot of my clothes are spoiled because of the damp and I cannot even leave my books out because they get ruined - I cannot leave them on the book shelf.
"I'm always getting ill and being absent from school and my asthma has come back - I'm constantly getting out of breath and I'm sure it's because of the flat.
"When our friends and relatives visit they often feel ill and get headaches afterwards."
Countless surveyors have come to inspect the property over the years and various solutions such as dehumidifiers have been suggested. But nothing has worked.
The pair are desperate to move out of the flat permanently, although they want to stay nearby because of Ms Nwokocha's job and because Chichi also works at Highgate primary school.
Chichi said: "I know there are housing problems in the area but I think we deserve to be moved to a decent apartment nearby where we can feel safe.
"After 16 years it really has gone beyond the point of discussion. You would not expect a flat at the heart of Highgate to be in a state like this."
Liberal Democrat councillor Bob Hare said: "I'm totally appalled at the length of time these problems have existed and that we are still struggling to get the action that is needed. It's now gotten so bad that they urgently need to be rehoused and the flat needs far more work than it would have done if the problem had been tackled earlier - or at all."
A spokesman for Homes for Haringey, which manages the council's properties, said workmen had been refused access to the flat. "Unfortunately we have only carried out interim works as we have been denied access by the tenant of flat five.
"We wish to completely replace the central heating pipe but our efforts to carry out these works have been refused. We are urgently liaising with the tenant to place her in temporary accommodation whilst we carry out these essential works and some remaining work to the wall tiles in the bathroom."