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A family stuck in an "overcrowded flat riddled with mould" said they have been left to live in "disgusting" conditions for over a decade and compared their situation to being "like crabs in a barrel".
Brian Gerson says his wife Kellymarie Gerson and their four kids have been forced to deal with the "unliveable" conditions at the two-bedroom property in Brockley, Lewisham, south east London.
The dad has become increasingly worried for his family's health and said the majority of them have developed respiratory issues due to the thick damp that has plagued the property, which is under Optivo Housing Association.
He claims the conditions are so poor that the family have been forced to pick pieces of their wet ceiling out of their food due to the paint crumbling while they cook.
The dad went on to say that their living situation has taken a hit on his wife's mental health and said he has to live with his mum because the flat it is too crammed.
Mr Gerson told the Daily Star: "It has been over 12 years my wife has had to deal with it – she first moved in with her firstborn daughter in 2009.
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"The mould has also brought problems such as things being ruined [ such as ] clothes, toys, furniture and keepsakes, so they have to be thrown away.
"The ceiling also flakes off bits of paint that end up everywhere from in the bath, to falling into your food while cooking."
He said his wife's eldest child was diagnosed with asthma within the first two years of moving into the property and said the conditions has made their other child's health condition worse.
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Mr Gerson added: "Her firstborn son was born premature and had to be incubated for the first two months of his life and ended up having subglottic stenosis [an issue with a child's airways just below their vocal cords].
"This is classed as a disability since he has trouble regulating his breathing while running and playing – it has been made worse by the mould."
The dad expressed his heartbreak over his wife's sadness and said she has told him several times that she feels like she is failing her children.
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He said: "The pandemic also has taken its toll on the family seeing as it's like crabs in a barrel [ with ] nowhere to escape to.
"With the eldest being fifteen years of age, you can imagine how it [ must be for her ] to share a room with her younger siblings that are nine and three years old."
He claims the most recent medical evidence submitted to the housing association by his wife has been "disregarded".
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"Optivo have done the bare minimum to try and solve anything. It needs more than just a mould wash," he claimed.
"They have also painted over the mould rather than treating it properly [ and ] have misplaced records of complaints and jobs that they have done in the property.
"They seem to be trying to do everything possible to keep her and the kids in that property because they know that they would have a hard time getting someone to take it.
"They need to be named and shamed for treating them like this and I can [ only ] imagine how many other households have been affected by the same housing association."
Optivo said in a statement: "We were made aware of mould and damp in one of our homes in Brockley on 17 November 2021, when reported by our resident, Ms. Gerson. We carried out an inspection on 1 December 2021. We found low level mould in rooms including the kitchen, bathroom and living space.
"As a result of the inspection, we’ll be attending the home on 20 January to complete a mould wash treatment of affected areas. This treatment is designed to kill and inhibit the growth of mould, fungi and mildew. We’ve also agreed a date of 1 February to redecorate the treated areas, which is the first date Ms Gerson is available.
"We’ll also install a fan on 25 January to increase ventilation and help to stop mould growth. If Ms Gerson is looking to find a new home, she’ll need to discuss this with her local authority, who are responsible for the allocation of homes. Our Lettings Team are here to support with this process, but the decision to accept the move remains with the local authority.
"A member of our housing team will make contact with Ms Gerson next week to discuss options available to her. We have a record of one complaint, raised by Ms. Gerson on 10 November 2021. We worked to resolve this and responded on 24 November 2021 with an action plan. The complaint has since been closed due to receiving no further response from Ms. Gerson. We’ve no record of any further or misplaced complaints. We’re sorry if Ms. Gerson feels we’ve not met her expectations, and we’re working with her to further address the issues she’s raised."
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