‘My flea-infested flat left my baby covered in bites’

Leslie lives in a rented flat with her young son in south London. She is a personal trainer.



When I found this flat, the landlady told me it had been newly decorated and refurbished, and I took her at her word, it did look lovely. But of course when you first go to see a property, it’s hard to detect underlying problems.

I moved in with my baby son. I had virtually no furniture to begin with so we were sleeping on a mattress on the floor for a while, and the first thing I noticed was that the whole flat was infested with fleas.

My four-month-old son was absolutely covered in flea bites. I had to pay out of my own money for the exterminator to come, although the landlady did eventually agree to refund me the money a few months later.

As winter came it because obvious that each of the external walls had a really bad mould problem.

Mould grows on the walls

Mould grows on the walls

I was worried about the effect it would have on my son so when the landlady didn’t respond to my requests for it to be treated, I decided to do the work myself.

I’m in the top floor flat and there was absolutely no insulation in the roof. There was one month when I paid over £100 in gas fees trying to keep the house warm enough for my son to sleep through the night.

It’s not even got proper double glazing, it’s the old style. I researched what I could do and found out about grants for roof insulation for families on low income. The landlady allowed me to have the insulation put in, but I can’t take it with me.

Mould and mildew

Mould and mildew

Everything I’ve wanted doing I’ve had to do off my own back. My landlady left me without a boiler for 6 months, without a fridge for 4 months.

The only thing I couldn’t sort out myself was the boiler, so for 6 months from February until mid-summer I had no hot water or heating. It was ridiculous because I would literally have to take my son to the leisure centre to get a hot shower.

My whole life for 6 months was running about, trying to keep us clean!

I found it very difficult. My son had a lot of problems when he was younger. I don’t know if it was directly related, but he had sleep apnoea, he would stop breathing a lot in his sleep, he’s actually now had an operation to remove his tonsils, adenoids and unblock his ears with grommets.



There are supposed to be standards but the law is if you stop paying the rent, your landlord can kick you out.

But if you ask your landlord to do a job that they really should be doing, again the same thing, they can kick you out. That’s changed recently for new tenancies but it doesn’t change anything for me.

I’ve found it very difficult. I’ve invested so much of my time and money into the property now that I don’t want to move.My son’s school is close by, and I worry because you don’t know what you’re going to move into.

Unfortunately it’s still the case that unless you are definitely in the higher rental bracket, it is a bit hit and miss what you’ll end up with.

Shelter provides free, expert advice. Visit our advice pages online for help with disrepair  or call our helpline on 0808 800 4444.

One thought on “‘My flea-infested flat left my baby covered in bites’

  1. Craig Greensmith

    From Lord Dennings ruling All landlord owe a duty of care to their tenants and should envisage and prepare for any occurrence that take place in the property. All to often tenants are blamed for black mould by ‘life style choices’ however, the landlord Should have anticipated this ! Most black mould is caused by poor ventilation and it is the landlords responsibity to make sure there is adequate ventilation within the property. They will never tell you that though.

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