One of the UK’s largest housing providers has been accused of forcing a young family to live with a bedbug infestation and mold outbreak for nearly four years.
Sanctuary Housing was aware of the chronic issues within a Pimlico-based property before Jade and Tyrone Sullivan moved into the maisonette with their three children, but failed to adequately address the issue, said the couple. The housing provider did not deny the allegations when approached about it.
Very soon after starting their tenancy in February 2019, the Sullivans say they realized the entire building in south London was infested with pests and mould.
As their complaints have not been adequately addressed over the years, the family suffers daily bedbug bites and their health deteriorates due to the dangerous conditions, they said.
Mr Sullivan says he underwent urgent medical treatment for a lung infection, believed to have been induced by the mould, while Ms Sullivan, who lives with bipolar disorder, fears episodic depression which she says has was exacerbated by a persistent lack of sleep.
The children, 10-year-old twins and a seven-year-old, now have permanent skin scars from the bites and struggle with school due to rest deprivation, their parents say.
“Since we moved in, we have had to endure despicable living conditions. Our health is affected by the bedbug situation as we cannot sleep properly at night and ingest mold,” said Ms Sullivan, an activist and writer. The Independent.
“I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in over 45 nights, so far. I feel like I’m going to die! This is torture – we’re living in hell.
Although the family have been moved to temporary accommodation, known as ‘settlement’, three times in as many years as damp and mold work has been undertaken, they say the measures have not provide only temporary solutions to the problem while the entire building continues to be submerged. Heat treatments were performed which failed to resolve the issue.
While her husband goes to work, Ms Sullivan says she “works like a slave” indoors, locked in a seemingly endless cycle of washing bloodstained sheets, where insects have been crushed in self-defense or bites oozed out, and trying to save moudy, wet clothes. Creatures descend from air vents and through walls 24 hours a day, in an endless ordeal.
At least three of their neighbors, who are having the same issues, told Sanctuary about the problem before moving in, the Sullivans said. In an email seen by The IndependentSanctuary acknowledged that the problem affects other residents of the building.
“It’s too much stress and trauma,” she added. “I just want a safe place to live; a normal house. These are necessities and that is all we ask for. I’m not just speaking for my family. I fight for my neighbors and for the people who have no voice in the matter, who experience substandard housing throughout the country.
“We deal with this problem 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Sanctuary Lodging? It is ironical.
The couple, who have been tenants of the Sanctuary since 2006, are both collectors of vintage clothes and objects, and say they have lost “thousands of pounds” of precious possessions and their clothes due to humidity.
“My wife has bipolar disorder and has slipped back into depression due to the continued stress of this situation which in turn is affecting my work and career as I have to take time off to care for her,” Ms. Sullivan. The Independent.
“It’s just a nightmare – we’ve been in this situation for three and a half years, we’ve taken our money to try to make it as nice as our family to try to make a nice house.
“But we haven’t been able to settle down the whole time we’ve been here. Without dampness and mold we are all bitten by bed bugs and kept awake at night. You can’t relax and you can’t sleep properly.
Ms Sullivan’s mental health is “deteriorating every day”, her worried husband said.
“Jade is not sleeping. It has created a toxic environment and all we want to do is relax at home like anyone else would.
“It’s straining everything – from our relationship to the kids. It’s frustrating because it’s just us against this organization.
A spokesperson for Sanctuary said: ‘We are in regular contact with Ms Sullivan and can reassure her that we fully understand her concerns and are committed to resolving them as soon as possible.
“We have already employed a specialist pest control company to carry out a number of treatments at this property – temporarily moving Ms Sullivan and her family to other accommodation if necessary – and have informed Ms Sullivan that we have now organized weekly treatments .
“We can also confirm that work has been planned to investigate reports of dampness and mold at Ms Sullivan’s home and strongly refute any allegations of discrimination in this matter.”
Earlier this year the CEO of Sanctuary apologized to Tory MP Grant Shapps who held housing association bosses ‘to account for his unacceptable treatment’ in his constituency of Hatfield.