‘They’re playing roulette with my life’

Tracey rents a property in Neasden, north-west London, with her ten-year-old son Rees and her partner Anthony.  Her home has damp and mould which are badly affecting the family’s health. 

Tracey and her son Rees

Tracey and her son Rees

We were evicted from our privately rented home two years ago, shortly before Christmas. The landlord just wanted his property back.

We couldn’t afford the costs of renting a new place and so we went to the council for help. They said we had to wait until we’d been evicted through the court process.

On the day the bailiffs were due, I didn’t want my son to feel intimated by them so we went to the council offices as soon as they opened.  We were given an appointment for 1pm the same day.  We didn’t have anywhere to go so we just had to wait at the housing department.

Then at 6pm, the housing officer told us to go to Kilburn to meet an estate agent as they’d found us a room.  When we walked into the room there were needles all over the place so I refused to stay there.

The council then put us in another bedsit.

I wasn’t feeling well and I didn’t know why.  I’d seen the GP who had done some blood tests to try and found out what the problem was.

Shelter, Tracey and her son, Brent, disrepair, dampI rang up the housing office and told them that I felt unwell and that I needed to go and stay with my parents until they found us a proper home.

The council then found us a property in Harlesden.  We were in the process of moving in there when I got a phone call from the hospital saying I need to go to A&E immediately.

I thought it was a joke because you never get a call from A&E. We got there and it was packed but I was just taken straight through. I wondered why I was by-passing everyone. They had a bed waiting for me and they started putting cannulas in me.

I was being put in isolation because I didn’t have any white blood cells and was at high risk of infection.

The doctors ran all these tests and on Christmas Eve I was told I had an aggressive form of leukaemia. I was basically dying and they had to start emergency treatment.

My partner Anthony  moved the rest of the stuff into our property and he stayed with Rees while I was in hospital.

I knew something was wrong with the house but Anthony didn’t want to stress me out because I was going through intensive chemotherapy.

Eventually he told me that water was pouring down the walls.  The council moved us into my current place in Neasden.

The council knew about my condition and that I wasn’t allowed around any mould or damp.

The place had been freshly decorated when we moved in. We asked the landlord if there was any damp in the property and he reassured us that there weren’t any problems with the flat.

When I eventually came out of hospital, the first thing I noticed when I went into the bedroom and put my bag down was a funny smell.

Shelter, Tracey and her son, Brent, disrepair, damp

I couldn’t work out where it was coming from so I got Anthony to pull the bed away from the wall and that’s where all the mould was.

We sent pictures and emails to the council and the landlord.   I was so upset and angry.

I felt like these people are playing Russian roulette with my life. It’s not funny… all I want is a safe environment to come home to and be in a safe place so I can recover without getting infections.

The landlord came round and put a radiator on the wall saying that would sort out the problem but it just made it worse.

Shelter, Tracey and her son, Brent, disrepair, damp

We overheard a builder telling the landlord that the problem was the outside wall. The landlord said he couldn’t touch the outside wall because it belongs to the housing association who own the building.  It’s just a nightmare.

I’m constantly hot because of the chemo so I have to have the windows open. But there were signs put up in the hallways saying: “Do not open your doors or windows because of the spiders.”

There was an infestation of giant spiders that were coming into people’s homes. I had to get all this sticky netting around all the windows. I’m not scared of spiders but the one I found in the bathroom was as big as my hand.

We have a humidifier to try and keep the mould down but you need to keep the doors and windows shut to use it otherwise it just draws in moisture from outside into the house. It drives me absolutely mad.

If you put your hand on the bed the mattress and the duvet are damp. It’s the same in Rees’s room so we had to throw his mattress out.  I have to sleep in the living room in the arm chair and Rees sleeps on the sofa. Anthony sleeps in the bedroom with the damp, he’s the only one it doesn’t affect.

We have to use a tumble drier to dry things because otherwise nothing dries. As soon as it’s put out it gets damp again.

My son is asthmatic and is living on anti-histamines at the moment because the mould affects him.

Shelter, Tracey and her son, Brent, disrepair, damp

Every morning when I wake up my throat is raw and sore because of the stuff I’m breathing in.

I told the council all of this the council told me I have to stay in the private sector. I’ve been bidding for nine years on social housing and I’m not getting anywhere, even with all my medical evidence.

I’m so fed up with renting. I could move into a new property and be facing this all over again six months down the line. It’s not like I take liberties. I look after my properties, I keep them clean and tidy. I just keep getting fobbed off.

I used to work in meals on wheels but I’m still not allowed to go back to work. Because of the chemo I’m at risk of infection. I’m desperate to go back to work so I can earn money and try and get into a new build but I can’t.

It’s really hard for me not working because me and Anthony have always worked ever since we left school. We’ve always had good jobs with decent money and to go from that to this situation is a big shock to the system.

I feel like I’m on the scrap heap.

I’m going to be applying for high schools for Rees later this year and I don’t know what to put down because we might have to leave the area. You’re never safe in the private sector. I just don’t want to keep doing this. I just don’t have the strength or the energy for moving.

Renting a home doesn’t need to be like this. Join our campaign to fix renting.

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