Disabled women trapped in rat and mould-infested flats say ‘we can’t take this any more’
Disabled women living with rats, mould and damp say they have been discriminated against by their social housing landlord.
Kerdesan Gallardo and Sheila Lewis are both wheelchair users and claim they have been battling to get repairs done which has left them feeling in fear for their lives.
Mum-of-two Kerdesan was forced to call the London Fire Brigade after water began streaming down her kitchen walls as she worried she would be electrocuted.
However, the tenant – who lives in Goodrich Court, North Kensington, London – says she called her landlord L&Q and was told there was ‘nothing they could do.’
While Sheila, 60, who lives alone, says she has been left terrified and unable to sleep since rats took over bedroom.
Sheila said: “I’ve got rats, I’ve got mice, I can’t sleep. I’m so depressed. Why isn’t anyone listening to me? Why? I can’t take this anymore. I cannot. I am in a wheelchair. I need to move out. I do not wish to come back here again.
“This has been going on for so many years, Kensington and Chelsea knew about it. I cannot live in these conditions, I’m diabetic.”
Sheila says she has been forced to eat at restaurants because of the rat infestation as they leave rat droppings around the flat.
She said: “I’m eating out in restaurants now because I can’t eat in the house. There’s rats and mice. It’s costing me a lot.
“All me and Kerdesan want is to move, we’ve had enough. I’ve had enough. I don’t even know how to go out. I live on my own. I can’t deal with it.”
Kerdesan was left feeling terrified after water began to leak from the flat above into the electric box in her home.
After calling her landlord, she claims that they told her to call the fire brigade. But once the service arrived, she claims that they told her landlord that she needed to be moved.
However, she claims that the landlord said there was ‘nothing they could do’ so instead, her lights were isolated and she was left in the dark.
Kerdesan said: “I got scared but it’s not the first time my house has been flooded. But when I saw it had gone through to my electric cupboard, I was really scared. I was more worried for my safety.”
Kerdesan was forced to live with the leak for four days until L&Q attended. and says that her living conditions caused her “stress” and that her and Sheila are treated poorly because of their disability.
She said: “They should do the things properly. When you’re disabled they treat you like this.”
Kerdesan has been living in the cramped flats she shares with her two children which makes her life extremely difficult.
She has often been left injured and bleeding after knocking her wheelchair into walls.
Living in North Kensington is also a constant reminder of the friends she lost in the Grenfell fire in 2017 which saw 15 of the 37 disabled residents die in the fire.
Sheila has also had to deal with mould on top of a rat infestation and says she has developed a cough.
London Fire Brigade confirmed that they attended the property however, they declined to comment on what Kerdesan was told.
A spokesperson for L&Q said: “We are sorry for the problems Ms Gallardo and Ms Lewis have been experiencing with their homes.
“We were made aware of a leak coming from another flat in Ms Gallardo’s building on September 18 and attended the same day.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to gain access to the home where the leak was coming from, so we returned on September 21, once we had obtained the permissions needed to gain entry to turn off the water supply to this flat.
“During these works we took advice from a qualified electrician when deciding to reinstate Ms Gallardo’s power supply.
“We were not informed by the London Fire Brigade that Ms Gallardo’s home was unsuitable for her to stay in.
“We sent contractors to Ms Lewis’ home in August 2020 to clean and treat any areas that had mould, and a number of times this year to deal with an infestation that our records show was resolved in April.
“We have not received any further reports since then, however we take this complaint very seriously and will reach out to Ms Lewis and work with her to reinspect her home and carry out any remediation work.
“We are very sorry that these residents feel that we have discriminated against them. Inclusion is one of our core values, and we have recently redesigned our Housing Management team to make sure that we are better able to support vulnerable residents.
“Our team will be contacting Ms Gallardo and Ms Lewis to investigate this further and make sure that they have the support they need.”
A spokesperson for Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said: “”There is a major housing shortage in our borough, particularly for larger and adapted homes. That’s why we are building 600 new homes, including at least 300 at social rent.
“But the vast majority of people live – and will continue to live – in the homes that already exist in our borough, and everyone deserves for their home to be safe and warm. This property is managed by London and Quadrant Housing Association, who we know are aware of the situation.”