The parents of a one-year-old girl who has been hospitalized six times due to the presence of damp and mold in their south London apartment express fear for her well-being and have requested assistance from their city council.
The parents express that their daughter’s situation reminds them of the heartbreaking incident of Awaab Ishak, who passed away in December 2020 due to a respiratory illness caused by a large amount of mold, as stated by an expert during his inquest.
Dareen Nuru resides in a single-bedroom apartment in Lambeth with her parents and four brothers and sisters.
“It is highly distressing, especially when we encounter Awaab Ishak,” said Amin Nuru, 41, referring to his daughter. The family relocated to the flat they are currently renting in February 2017, and issues with damp and mould arose shortly after.
Reworded: Dareen was born in January with a congenital heart defect. She was hospitalized for nine days at just five days old due to breathing issues and low body temperature. Her father mentioned that she received oxygen and was kept warm during her stay. In the following weeks, Dareen’s family brought her back to the hospital multiple times, including her sixth visit last month.
According to the 2021 census, 11% of households in London are considered overcrowded, which is higher than the national average of 4%. The family in question is just one of many households in the city living in cramped conditions.
Having too many people in a confined area can have negative effects on both physical and mental health. The National Housing Federation states that one of the common consequences of overcrowding is the presence of damp and mould, which is caused by increased humidity due to the large number of occupants.
During the Guardian’s visit to the family’s residence, Dareen’s mother was holding her while she wheezed loudly. The house had noticeable black mold in various areas and the walls and ceilings were discolored from water stains, likely due to dampness. The living room contained sealed plastic containers filled with children’s clothing.
The correspondence indicates that healthcare workers brought attention to the state of the residence and the negative effects it was having on Dareen and her siblings. They suggested that the family be relocated.
According to Nuru, his landlord informed him that the issues of dampness and mould in the apartment could only be resolved if they vacated temporarily. He expressed concern as there was no alternative place for them to stay.
The landlord stated that they had offered assistance in finding a new place for the family to stay while the problems were being addressed. They also gave them dehumidifiers and supplies to remediate the mold.
The landlord stated that they had previously resided in the premises and had not encountered any problems with moisture and fungus. They claimed that the “hazardous overcrowding” in the property led to issues with dampness and mould.
The Lambeth council was contacted by the family for assistance, and in June, an environmental officer conducted a visit to their home. The assessment concluded that the household, consisting of seven individuals, was not considered overcrowded. The council utilized a specific formula to determine this, which included not counting children under one year old, counting children aged one to nine as half a person, and counting anyone aged 10 or above as one person.
During that period, Dareen and her twin sister were both younger than one year old and therefore not considered in the count. The family received a score of 3.5. The council stated that this did not meet the legal limit for overcrowding.
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL), a campaign group, sent a letter to the council requesting a reassessment of a family’s housing status. The group believes the family should be given a band A classification on the council’s housing list, which is reserved for individuals with urgent medical needs. However, the council reportedly did not respond to the request.
In the previous month, members of HASL gathered outside the offices of Lambeth council in protest. Over 60 individuals showed up to show support for the family. Following the protest, the family received news that they had been placed in band B on the council’s housing list and their case was being evaluated. However, after the Guardian reached out to Lambeth council for a statement, the family was upgraded to a band A classification.
Elizabeth Wyatt, a part of HASL, stated during the demonstration that there is a widespread issue of overcrowding in Lambeth and throughout London. She mentioned Amin’s situation as an example of the extreme cases, which although a minority, is increasing in number. She referred to these conditions as the modern-day slums.
Although the classification has changed, it may still take a considerable amount of time to secure a new residence. Lambeth council has stated that this is primarily due to an overwhelming demand and a significant lack of social housing, particularly for households with seven members.
A representative from the Lambeth council stated that after completing the promised review, they have decided to grant Mr. Nuru a Band A status. This is due to the fact that the twins have recently turned one in January, which means that their current living situation would now be considered overcrowded according to standard definition.