HA apologises to residents for squalid conditions at London estate after TV expose

Bosses at the country’s largest social landlord have apologised to residents of an estate in south London found to be infested with vermin and plagued by damp issues, with repairs left outstanding for years.

The 500 properties on Eastfields Estate in Mitcham are home to over a thousand people. It was featured in an ITV News bulletin, similar to one which exposed appalling living conditions on a Croydon Council estate in March.

Eastfields is owned by Clarion Housing which manages over 125,000 homes nationally. Vicky Bonner, director of housing at Clarion, said the service to residents living on the Eastfields Estate in Mitcham, south London, “had not been to the standard that the association would have liked” and that the housing association is “really sorry” to residents living there.

The ITV News broadcast showed an estate infested with rats and mice, with broadcast images showing widespread disrepair, including holes in the walls and ceilings, damp issues across the block and ongoing leaks.

One long-term resident who has lived in the block for 27 years, revealed that she had been living with a hole in her wall since she moved in. TV images showed her ceiling covered in black mould and a rotting bathroom, which led to the tenant being forced forced to wash with a bucket of water. She said she could hear the sound of rats moving around in her walls at night, which has given her sleepless nights.

Repairs left unrectified

Another resident reported living for eight months without any lights on the top floor of her house, which includes the family bathroom and her children’s bedroom. Both tenants said they had made repeated calls and complaints to Clarion to fix the issues in their flats but these had still not been rectified.

Ms Bonner said Eastfields Estate was earmarked for regeneration but progress had been slower than planned. She said: “The reality is Eastfields Estate is coming to the end of its life and the kind of issues we’ve got can only best be tackled by demolition and wholesale regeneration.

“When you are faced with regeneration, there is always a balance to be had in terms of how much short-term and long-term investment you make.

It is clear to us that on this estate we haven’t got the balance right and that means some residents have had to put up with some repairs taking longer to complete.

Clarion has since put in place an action plan to address some of the issues, including writing to all residents to apologise and members of the local team knocking on every residents’ door to find out what their issues are. Clarion opened an estate office on the estate for residents to discuss housing issues and set up a dedicated email address for repairs to be reported.

The earlier ITV investigation resulted in Croydon Council becoming only the second social landlord found in breach of the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard. The Regulator of Social Housing criticised the council saying that some of the homes they managed were “uninhabitable and unsafe” and that some tenants were at “risk of serious harm” as a result of the conditions.

By Patrick Mooney, Editor