Victory for Brixton residents damp campaign

St Martin's residents celebrate victory on steps of Town Hall
St Martin’s residents celebrate victory. Pic Graham Weston

St Martin’s Tenant’s Residents Association has won the support of Lambeth council in their fight against damp in the estate’s homes.

The council has agreed to appoint an independent environmental health officer to conduct an inspection of the most affected housing blocks on the estate after more than 50 residents filled out pro forma complaints detailing the problems with serious damp and mould problems in their accommodation, which severely affects their health and quality of life.

The TRA is also calling on Metropolitan, Notting Hill and Optivo, the housing associations that manage the housing stock on the estate to share structural reports on the affected blocks.

Residents of St Martin's estate testify to Lambeth council about damp
Pic credit Paul Gadsby

After the TRA’s delegation to Lambeth Council on Wednesday 17 July Lambeth Housing cabinet member Paul Gadsby said: “Thank you to St Martin’s TRA for their testimony tonight about the issues they’ve had with their housing associations. We’ll be ensuring at Lambeth Council that we take action to ensure landlords live up to their responsibilities.”Damp in a flat on St Martin's Estate

At a recent TRA meeting, residents reported problems with damp in their flats dating back as far as 1994, that had gone unaddressed.

Resident Justine Harrison said her quality of life is severely affected by the damp in her one-bedroom flat since she moved in in 2000.

“An environmental officer identified a number of issues in my property. Damp has destroyed my fitted wardrobes and I have clothes in bin bags all over my property. I’m embarrassed to have people come to my flat because of the smell and appearance of the damp. It’s a very depressing way to live.”

Resident Rita Forrest said she had damp successfully treated in her flat, but only after withholding rent and being taken to court by the housing association.

She said: “My walls were covered in mould, and I was told I had to clean it myself. Despite frequent cleaning and airing, the damp kept coming back.

“After four months of withholding my rent, I was taken to Kennington County Court, where I was able to show pictures documenting the conditions I was living in. The court found in my favour, and the housing association sent someone to properly insulate the affected walls. The damp has never come back since.”

Chris Blake, Joint Secretary of St Martin’s TRA, said: “The St Martin’s TRA has been campaigning against damp since 2016. Since then, I’ve seen many people’s houses and have been shocked by how damp affects their lives, causing real problems to their health and exacerbating existing medical conditions.

“We have tried constantly to engage with our landlords throughout this process. They have promised surveys and then refused to carry them out. This is unacceptable and that’s why we are asking Lambeth council to take action against them, as they should take action against any other slum landlords.”

Estate residents in Lambeth Town Hall
Photo credit: Cllr Mary Atkins

Local councillor Mary Atkins said: “Local councillors have been working on this issue for six to seven years. We’ve tried various ways of engaging with the local housing associations in that time.

“It’s only since the cabinet member, the community organisers and the TRA got involved that some real focus has been brought to it. Hopefully we will see some action soon.”

St Martin’s Tenants and Residents Association is a group of residents who live on the St Martin’s Estate in Lambeth. The TRA covers Abbots Park, Atwater Close, Challice Way, Ewen Crescent, Gaywood Close, High Trees and Vibart Gardens. It also covers the part of the estate that’s on Tulse Hill and Upper Tulse Hill.

The housing on the St Martin’s estate is managed by three housing associations: Metropolitan, Optivo, Notting Hill Housing.