Harlesden mum of three at wits end in 'death trap' home

Althea with her son Solace and daughter Divine in the converted living room with rotting windows

Althea Heron with her son Solace and daughter Divine in the converted living room with rotting windows - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

A Harlesden mother says she's living in a "death trap" with rotting windows, cracked walls and leaks that are being "ignored" by her landlord.

Mum-of-three Althea Heron is "at the end of her tether" following multiple issues with her two-bedroom flat in Nicholl Road which is run by Shepherd's Bush Housing Association.

The rotting windows do not close properly so cold air blasts on her elder daughter's head at night.

Her two younger children, who sleep in the living room are cold at night when the heating is not on.

Althea Heron clutching her medication in her kitchen that leads on to her children's beds in the living room

Althea Heron clutching her medication in her kitchen that leads on to her children's beds in the living room - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

"I'm at the end of my tether. This place is a death trap," said Althea, who is on multiple medications for anxiety and depression.

"My windows are rotten allowing rain and draft in, which has now caused my 12-year -old daughter to be diagnosed with asthma.

My nine-year-old old son shares the living room as a bedroom with my  daughter which is also part of our kitchen.

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My ceiling in the bedroom leaks and also has rotten windows. My 17-year-old daughter's bedroom window can't close properly and these repairs go back as far as nearly 15 years."

The Brent & Kilburn Times unsuccessfully tried to close this window in Althea Heron's daughter's bedroom

The Brent & Kilburn Times unsuccessfully tried to close this window in Althea Heron's daughter's bedroom. - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

Althea moved into the property in 2007 and was met with a mouse infestation which was not dealt with until 2018 when it emerged there were large gaps around the pipework in the kitchen. 

Althea filed a complaint to the Housing Ombudsman who confirmed "failures" and "delays" with repairs in its 2021 report and said Ms Heron should be compensated.

A complaint about the windows is ongoing. SBHA fixed draught excluders but the gaps in the window leads them to unstick.

Althea still wants SBHA to do a survey on her cracked walls and the leak in her bedroom after a communal ceiling collapsed last year due to a leak in her bathroom.

Repairs to her kitchen and bathroom were finally completed this year.

Brent Council intervened when SBHA when Althea was threatened with eviction in 2018 but she claims that Brent officers who continue to support her "are being ignored by SBHA".

The council has allowed her to bid on a property, but only another two-bedroom flat, whereas she needs three.

"All this has caused me to suffer from depression, develop anxiety and an attempted suicide September 2020 when the ceiling collapsed and I had to go into hospital.

"Still I'm ignored.

"I've exhausted every avenue possible and struggle to find a solicitor to go up against SBHG, but don't know why, although all say I have a case."

Althea Heron's bedroom, which has a leak and rotting windows, doubles up as a kitchen and an office

Althea Heron's bedroom, which has a leak and rotting windows, doubles up as a kitchen and an office - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

A SBHA spokesperson did not comment on historic and current delays but said: "We proactively reach out to our vulnerable residents to ensure we maintain high levels of contact.

"We are in no way ignoring Ms Heron and we are in contact with her numerous times every month."

They said they have carried out "substantial" works and "tried to complete additional works" when the heating system and kitchen were installed "but Ms Heron only wanted the essential works completed", a claim she denies.

SBHA has a "yearly reinvestment programme" where they upgrade properties and "look to expedite cases for the most in need," they added.

They also said three-bedroom flats are in "short supply" but they will "continue to explore the option of a mutual exchange for Ms Heron and her family."

"We take our commitment to our residents very seriously and we hope the issues Ms Heron is facing will soon be resolved," they added.

A spokesperson for Brent Council did not comment on issues with SBHA officers nor allowing Ms Heron to bid on three-bedroom properties.

They said: "We're aware of Ms Heron's situation and concerned to hear her living conditions have not improved.

"The landlord of this property is SBHA, and they have a responsibility to carry out the necessary repairs.

"We have raised this as a matter of urgency, requesting clarification about when the repairs will happen.”

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