'We are living like animals' says Harlesden family

Family living in poor housing, Harlesden Gardens:
Raif Rexhepi (father), Raif Rexhepi (Baby - 10 mon

Raif Rexhepi with his wife Kumrije Rexhepi, daughter-in-law Ardiana Rexhepi and granddaughter Liriana Rexhepi age 3 - Credit: Jonathan Goldberg

A Harlesden family living without hot water for more than a month and rodents for even longer say they are "not being treated like human beings".

The Rexhapi family, which includes a 10-month-old baby, are having to cope with no hot water, mice, rats, maggots, bedbugs, leaking ceilings as well as damp and mould.

Family living in poor housing, Harlesden Gardens:
Raif Rexhepi (father), Raif Rexhepi (Baby - 10 mon

Raif Rexhepi, with 10-month-old grandson Raif Rexhepi , daughter-in-law Ardiana Rexhepi, wife Kumrije Rexhepi and granddaughter Liriana Rexhepi (age 3) in their mouldy Harlesden home shared with mice, maggots, rats and bedbugs - Credit: Jonathan Goldberg

The two-bedroom flat in Harlesden Gardens is managed by Notting Hill Genesis on behalf of a private landlord.

Raif Rexhapi, his wife Kumreji, son Lirivon, daughter-in-law Ardejana, and two young grandchildren live in the property after being placed there eight years ago by Brent Council.

Brent Council said it was "shocked" to learn of the conditions, while Notting Hill Genesis apologised for the delay due to the "extent and complexity" of works.

Raif, 52, said: "We don't have hot water, we don't have a cooker, we don't have nothing here, we are living like animals." 

On March 25 their gas was switched off due to a leak outside their property.

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The housing association were due to start work on April 26.

Raif, who is diabetic, has suffered three heart attacks, most recently in 2019, a quadruple heart bypass in 2018, and on April 23, he was told by doctors he will need a third stent in his artery.

Raif Rexhapi had a third heart attack in 2019 

Raif Rexhapi had a third heart attack in 2019 and housing issues add to his stress - Credit: Valbona Rexhapi

He also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and said he has to visit his daughter Valbona in Ruislip to have a shower.

The family must heat water in a kettle on  "picnic gas", so they can wash themselves and the baby.

"We wait for 28 days and we call them and call them every day. They don't answer the phone and when they do answer they give us different people who know nothing," said Raif.

Two of the bedrooms have leaking ceilings when it rains. They must hang food on door handles to keep them from rodents who "eat everything".

They hoover daily under the sofa bed Raif and Kumreji sleep on in the living room because of the rat droppings. Boxes of poison are exposed everywhere "but are not working".

"About four years ago the roof was leaking in the bedrooms where the children sleep. The agency say they will send the landlord but the landlord has never been here to check how we are living," Raif added.

"Every day you have to cope with something.

"We can't live like this. They are treating us like we are not human beings."

Valbona's bed bug bites at her parents' Harlesden home

Daughter Valbona wakes up with bed bug bites at her parents Harlesden home, managed by Notting Hill Genesis Housing Association - Credit: Valbona Rexhapi

Their daughter Valbona, who has three children, said: "I'm scared to go and spend time with my parents. We wake up itching and have to switch on a torch to see where it's coming from.

"It's awful and they have to live with it on a daily basis. It's not fair, they shouldn't have to put up with it. I don't know why they can't get rid of the problems and hope someone reaches out to them."

Brent Council offered them private accommodation in Walsall, near Birmingham in 2015 which the family turned down.

As a result the council "discharged its duty" and the family cannot bid for another more secure and affordable property.

A Notting Hill Genesis spokesperson said: “We are aware of the issues after a routine gas safety check uncovered a possible leak and the gas had to be switched off.

"We apologise for the length of time our residents have been waiting. Unfortunately, a delay has been caused by the extent and complexity of the works required.

"We have been previously informed of a pest issue in February 2020 and arranged treatment for that at the time.

"We have been in conversation with the tenants’ chosen representative throughout the past month and the issue of pests or leaks has not been raised with us.

"Now we are aware of these issues, we will ensure our contractors investigate the issue while they are there and work with the landlord to carry out any repairs as quickly as possible.”

A council spokesperson said they were "shocked to hear about the conditions the family are in" adding: “In line with legislation, we have a responsibility to end our homelessness duty once an offer of accommodation which is deemed suitable has been fulfilled, and in this case it was.

"We understand that circumstances change and would encourage the family to get in touch if they wish to make a new homelessness application."