Tenant left in ‘cockroach-infested’ and ‘rotten’ council housing for three years

Megan Baynes

A council housing tenant said he and his family have been left for three years in “unliveable” accommodation that “is not even fit for animals”.

As well as dealing with conditions including an infestation of mice and cockroaches and an “asbestos-filled ceiling” at the property in Mitcham, south London, Kwajo Tweneboa said he and his two siblings were threatened with eviction when their father died from cancer last year.

The 22-year-old said he was driven to share pictures on social media of his rotten kitchen and mouldy wallpaper out of sheer desperation.

He told the PA news agency: “I’ve had to put it online and embarrass myself.

Tiles are falling off the wall in the bathroom (Kwajo Tweneboa/PA)
Tiles are falling off the wall in the bathroom (Kwajo Tweneboa/PA)

“It just shows how much of the last resort it is when you have to drag your property, which you’re ashamed of, on social media because no-one is listening.”

He said Clarion Housing, the UK’s largest housing association, tried to evict him and his sisters, aged 23 and 20, after their father’s death at the beginning of 2020.

“We were fighting to keep the house because there was a clause in the contract that said a spouse could have the house, but the children couldn’t,” he said.

After the family were served with a 30-day eviction notice, Mr Tweneboa complained to Clarion and was eventually offered his own tenancy.

“They knew what they were doing was wrong but they wanted their rent money to keep coming,” he said. “So the easiest option for them, I believe, was to give us a contract.”

Kwajo Tweneboa said he is embarrassed at having to post pictures of his home on social media (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Kwajo Tweneboa said he is embarrassed at having to post pictures of his home on social media (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He is now forced to shower at the gym because the light in his bathroom is filled with rainwater, the room has no window, the taps on the shower are rusted, and tiles are falling off the wall.

In the kitchen, the cabinets are waterlogged, rotten, and infested with woodlice, he said.

A Clarion spokesman told PA: “We would like to provide absolute reassurance that the safety and wellbeing of our residents is our number one priority. We are committed to resolving all of the outstanding repairs at Mr Tweneboa’s home.

“We have undertaken a significant amount of work already and are currently working with Mr Tweneboa’s solicitors to agree a schedule for the remainder.

“We acknowledge the inconvenience the repairs issues at this property have caused and apologise if Mr Tweneboa feels we haven’t provided the service expected from us.

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“We were very sorry to hear of the passing of Mr Tweneboa’s father. A Notice to Quit was served as part of the end of tenancy process and a new tenancy for the property was then granted to Mr Tweneboa following this.”

Mr Tweneboa said work done by Clarion including tearing down an “asbestos-filled ceiling”, leaving dust in the living room and a hole in the roof.

Despite repeated calls, he said the family were then left without a ceiling throughout the winter, with no provision for additional heating.

“All it needed was a patch repair,” said Mr Tweneboa, who works in marketing and pays £600 a month in rent for the property.

“I ended up moving my furniture outside, and now it is destroyed. My belongings are all destroyed, as are those that belonged to my dad.”

Kwajo Tweneboa said the ‘unliveable’ accommodation ‘is not even fit for animals’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Kwajo Tweneboa said the ‘unliveable’ accommodation ‘is not even fit for animals’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Doors on the property do not latch properly, while the garden fence is rotten, which has resulted in the premises being broken into.

Mr Tweneboa said: “I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety shortly after (my dad) passed away, and I was given antidepressants because at that time I was very suicidal.”

Campaign groups have condemned the Government’s slow progress on social housing legislation, which was first mooted nearly three years ago.

The kitchen of the property in Mitcham, south London (Kwajo Tweneboa/PA)
The kitchen of the property in Mitcham, south London (Kwajo Tweneboa/PA)

Mr Tweneboa said the family were initially placed in a mould-infested garage by Merton Council in 2017. It offered this as temporary accommodation, saying they would otherwise have to move to Luton.

“At this point, my sister and I were slap bang in the middle of our school exams,” said Mr Tweneboa.

He added: “It was a residential car garage that had been badly converted into a house.

“It would leak, and a burst water main flooded the hallways and destroyed our schoolwork.”

They were eventually moved to their current property in 2018.

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Merton Council’s member for housing, Martin Whelton, said: “I am very concerned to hear about the condition of the property in Mitcham and we have raised these issues as a matter of urgency with Clarion, who own the property and are responsible for the maintenance of the property.”

Mr Tweneboa told PA: “I am going to fight until they do fix this and do it to a proper standard. Otherwise, what they are going to do is just move us out and move someone else in, and hope that is someone who won’t complain.

“I’m not asking to live in a mansion. I am asking for our basic needs, and what we pay rent for. They have a duty of care and they have violated their tenancy agreement.”