Devoted dad spent dying days surrounded by ‘mice, cockroaches and mould’ in damp home
A devoted dad spent his dying days living in a damp-ridden, mouldy home infested with mice and cockroaches as his son fought for vital repairs to be carried out.
As well as dealing with conditions that left the home ‘unliveable’ Kwajo Tweneboa said he and his two siblings were threatened with eviction when their dad 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 at his home in Mitcham, south London, out of sheer desperation.
He told MyLondon : “I’ve had to put it online and embarrass myself.
“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.”
Kwajo moved into the property with his dad and two sisters, Sabea, 23 and Safoa, 20, in late 2018 after all four had been living in temporary accommodation in a one-bedroom garage conversion in West Norwood.
Kwajo’s dad had been fighting for ‘years’ to get on a waiting list for council housing and out of the one bedroom garage conversion, where Kwajo and his sisters shared a bed together and his father slept in the living room.
It was meant to be a new start, but the family soon encountered a series of problems with the three-bedroom townhouse and the housing association Clarion Housing, who also own the building.
The property was riddled with damp, mould and a ceiling which has collapsed and needs replacing, due to previous asbestos.
Kwajo claims he has “lost count” with the amount of times he has complained to Clarion Housing about maintenance and health and safety issues.
He said: “The council and housing association should have a duty of care for their tenants, yet they have them living in conditions like this, it should be illegal.”
Kwajo 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.”
Doors on the property do not latch properly, while the garden fence is rotten, which has resulted in the premises being broken into.
Kwajo 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.
He also 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.
“I got an eviction notice during the peak of the pandemic, I wrote to my local MP and told Clarion you cannot kick us out during the pandemic, but what I think they wanted is their rent.
“We had nowhere to go so I signed a new contract in August last year. By that point we still had problems with the mice, the doors, the back fence. All these things I complained about were just ignored.”
“When Clarion workmen came round to our house to look into our kitchen, they said ‘I’m really sorry but I wouldn’t even let animals live in these conditions and the conditions that tenants have to live in with housing associations and Clarion in particular.’”
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.”
He added: “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.”
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.
“We can confirm all asbestos safety precautions were followed during the removal of the ceiling and an air test completed after the room had been cleaned.
“We have not been made aware of any issues with internal doors other that the one we have fixed and the cupboard door scheduled for repair but we will arrange for an inspection of all the internal doors to check they are working as they should.
“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.”
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.”
Kwajo said that Clarion Housing have continued to send workmen and surveyors over when they are aware he works full time at a school.
He said: “When I signed the contract, they (Clarion Housing) were phoning my dead dad’s phone when they knew he had passed away. They turned it round to me and gave me attitude, saying ‘no one was in’ when they were ringing my dead dad’s phone.
“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.”
He added: “If I could do anything to help other tenants I will, because no one should be living like this. Children are also living in these conditions.
“Me and my sisters should be travelling, not fighting the council and trying to fight off a whole organisation.
“I’m just exhausted, mentally, physically in every way you can imagine by these people and to be one person trying to fight them off is impossible. We’ve been fighting for too long.”