Charlotte* (*not her real name) recently emailed to tell us about the following situation.

I’m emailing on behalf of my mum. She has a serious case of black mould in one of her bedrooms that can’t be used now, and in her bathroom. She was told by the council that it’s due to overcrowding but they refuse to do anything about it told her it’s down to her to remove it. My mum has a respiratory disease which she has had surgeries for, I am asthmatic, and my daughter was born with a heart and lung defect – we shouldn’t be living in a home like this one.

She has been in touch with councillors [x and y] about this who sent someone round 5 weeks ago who said they would be in touch but no one has. She has been emailing everyone but no one has replied to her. She also went to speak to a councillor [z] this morning and he was very rude and unprofessional. He discussed her issue in front of everybody and told her she hasn’t got a damp issue. My mum asked him to come and look for himself and he told her he hasn’t got time for that. She then explained she was waiting for councillor [x] to get in touch with her and he replied there is no councillor [x].

I feel she is being given the run around, this is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with A.S.A.P I would be very grateful if you could look into this for me.

Charlotte* talks about the health conditions affecting her and her family.

Respiratory diseases are common in Newham; asthma is one of most prevalent diseases after diabetes (Newham NHS Needs Report).

There are proven links between poor housing and ill-health. Poor housing conditions increase the risk of severe ill-health or disability by up to 25 per cent during childhood and early adulthood (Shelter, Chance of a Lifetime, 2006).

Charlotte* is understandably concerned about the impact of her housing on her family’s health – mould is a known trigger for health conditions such as asthma.

The Farooq family*

Last year, the Farooq family* (*not their real name) sadly lost their father. The family are tenants are in a housing association property and expected that the tenancy would pass to their mother.

Instead, they received a letter without right of appeal from the housing association saying their mother could only have tenancy on a new property.

This is what Rashad* said in March:

My mother is particularly affected. She is constantly in tears and has fainted twice since receiving the letter. We fear losing her because her health has deteriorated to such an extent after this news.

We have lived in the property over 25 years and we’re proud to be part of the community here, especially on this estate. We have wonderful friendships here and don’t understand why we would have to move.

The housing association upheld the decision, telling the family that the mother did not have the right to inherit the tenancy because she was not the father’s first wife. This was despite their marriage of over 40 years, including the entire duration of the family living in the property.

Thankfully this decision has now been overturned.

Housing associations have been discussed on this blog before (see here) where a possible critique concerning their lack of transparency was mentioned in passing.

The decisions made by housing associations have potentially life-changing consequences – as made evident by the experiences of the Farooq family* – but they can operate according to their own rules, This gives at least some validity to the accusation that they act as a ‘law unto themselves’.