A mum claims a mould infestation that went untreated in her council flat for three years left her looking like an “acid attack victim'” as an allergic reaction swelled her face.
Louise Derrick first noticed mould around the windows of her bedroom and living room in her one-bed flat in Wallington, London, three years ago and reported it to Sutton Housing Partnership.
The 42-year-old claims nothing was done about the issue, and it was left to ravage the flat and her possessions, turning her life into an “absolute hell”.
Pictures show her eyes swollen almost shut, with the painful, red swelling causing her face to balloon as thick black mould covered her walls and rotted the wallpaper.
Louise claims she was forced to quit her job as a salon manager after developing Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), which leaves her with very little mobility and constant seizures – meaning she is unable to leave her home.
She also claims nurses told her that her severe reaction was to the mould, which has also left her with chronic asthma.
Sutton Housing Partnership say they have been ‘been working very closely’ with Louise since 2019 on reported issues and have begun repairs work in the flat.
However Louise says efforts to tackle the mould only began on June 14 after the mould had already destroyed many of her possessions and left her sick.
Louise said: “I found out I was severely allergic to the mould while trying to clean and save my furniture – my eyes and throat closed up until I couldn’t see or breathe.
“My whole face and body burnt and blistered, even inside my eyelids and mouth, which took almost four weeks to heal and the blisters have left scars on my skin. The pain was horrific.
“I almost died, it was really scary. I had to have three injections of adrenaline in my leg to save my life.
“I couldn’t see for days because my face was so swollen but when I could it was so upsetting – I looked like someone had thrown acid in my face.
“The mould has destroyed my entire home as well. I’ve lost absolutely everything, even things that can’t be replaced like a suitcase of my dad’s things who’s recently passed away.
“I used to have a beautiful bedroom but the mould took over my whole bed and now I’m on the mouldy sofa with throws over me to try and stop me breathing too much in.
“I loved my home so it’s devastating.”
Louise was diagnosed with FND just over two years ago and now uses wheelchair. She suffered from collapsing spells for years before that.
She claims being trapped in the mould-ridden flat led her to be diagnosed with chronic asthma two years ago and sparked her severe anaphylactic reactions.
She now has to take oral steroids in an effort to prevent more allergic reactions, which could kill her.
Louise said: “I first noticed the mould three years ago around the corners of the windows and it was jet black.
“Since then it’s come through the wallpaper and made it start to peel off, created huge damp patches on the walls and ceilings and completely destroyed everything in the flat.
“I noticed when I was in the bedroom I got very chesty and I was diagnosed with chronic asthma – the nurse said it was from constantly breathing the mould in.
“Visitors say the smell of it in the air hits you like a wall when you walk through the door into the flat. It’s absolute hell.
“It would be dangerous for someone well to live amongst all this mould, never mind someone who’s really unwell like me.
“I have to have physio because of my condition [FND] and my mobility has got even worse because of being crunched up on the couch for so long.”
Louise said she first reported the mould to her landlord at the Sutton Housing Partnership three years ago and has since repeatedly contacted them begging them to deal with it.
She also claims that, despite sending photos of the mould and letters from her doctor urging them to take action, it has taken four months of campaigning from her local MP Elliot Colburn to make any progress.
According to Louise, the housing partnership are refusing to help replace her destroyed furniture as they remove it, leaving her to sleep on the floor.
Louise said: “The housing manager has sent multiple surveyors round who have all said the outside walls need repointing because the concrete is so damaged that you can push your fingers through it.
“So it’s clear the mould is coming from the outside walls and I might be in the same situation again in no time – it’s just not good enough.
“The contractors said I shouldn’t be in here but I have nowhere to go – the temporary accommodation the housing manager offered me didn’t even have a fridge and was flooded with dirty water.
“I’m still on the couch in the living room while they work on the bedroom but once they move onto the living room and get rid of the couch I’ll be on the bedroom floor if I can’t get help to buy a new bed.
“I can’t afford one myself because I’m on sickness benefits and my mum is a retired pensioner.
“They can see how bad it is because they’re taking all my belongings away but still they’re so reluctant to do anything and won’t accept responsibility.
“They’ve also refused to do anything about the garden which is just rotted decking destroyed by the mould, taking away my only chance to sit outside and have some fresh air.”
Steve Tucker, managing director of Sutton Housing Partnership, said: “Since 2019 we have been working very closely with Miss Derrick on a range of reported repairs issues.
“We have offered several options to remedy the works needed and have made special arrangements to accommodate her needs, some of which have led to significant delays in the works being completed.
“We’re pleased that our repairs officers have been able to make significant progress on the work recently, with this phase set for completion this week.
“We will continue to work carefully and sensitively to support Miss Derrick and find solutions that meet her housing, health and wellbeing needs.”
Louise, with the help of a friend, has set up a Go Fund Me page in the hopes of raising enough money to replace her furniture destroyed by the mould.
She added: “It’s shocked me so much that I’ve been treated so badly and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.
“”This neurological condition alone is like torture but add to that losing your entire home and living in this prison of mould with no fresh air – it’s horrific.”