Mother says asthmatic son, 16, is struggling to breathe due to black mould in their council flat 

Mother says her asthmatic son, 16, is struggling to breathe due to thick black mould in their council flat

  • Aisha Hussain, 31, shares her Brent flat with her children, 16, 13 and two
  • She first noticed black mould in November 2021 but says nothing has been done
  • Michael Gove warned today ‘tens of thousands’ of homes are likely to be unsafe
  • It follows the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from black mould exposure 

A mother whose asthmatic son is ‘struggling to breathe’ in their flat because it is covered in black mould feels ‘fobbed off’ by the council and has had to be admitted to hospital due to the stress of the situation.

Aisha Hussain, 31, says her eldest child, Justin, 16, is asthmatic and the thick black mould that’s formed on their living room and bedroom walls has made his condition worse. 

Justin has been on prescribed steroids for more than three weeks and is having to use an asthma mask to help him breathe.

The mould appeared on the walls of Ms Hussain’s flat in Harlesden, London, which she shares with her three children Justin, 16, Shay, 13, and Shahroz, two, in November 2021. 

She has attempted to use mould remover and has contacted the managers of her property but is ‘slowly giving up’ because there is ‘no help’ being offered to her.

It comes as Housing Secretary Michael Gove warned this morning that ‘tens of thousands’ of homes are likely to be unsafe as he cracks down on landlords in the wake of the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak.

Awaab died from exposure to black mould which made its way into his lungs and even his blood, despite his parents repeatedly raising the issue with their landlords, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.

Ms Hussain has been left terrified in the aftermath of the case. She said: ‘It is stressing me out. I have been to the doctor with high blood pressure and my heart has been out of rhythm because of stress.

Aisha Hussain, 31, said she is 'giving up' that the infestation of black mould will ever be fixed

Aisha Hussain, 31, said she is ‘giving up’ that the infestation of black mould will ever be fixed

Ms Hussain said she first noticed black mould in the property in November 2021, and it has now spread across the flat

Ms Hussain said she first noticed black mould in the property in November 2021, and it has now spread across the flat

The black mould was first spotted in the family’s living room and has spread to Ms Hussain’s bedroom

Ms Hussain's sons Shay, 13, and Shahroz, two

Ms Hussain's third son Justin struggles to breathe in the flat due to his asthma

Ms Hussain is concerned for the health of her three children, Justin, 16 (right), Shay, 13 (left) and Shahroz, two (right of left image)

Ms Hussain is particularly concerned about the mould after it was confirmed that two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from exposure to black mould in his Rochdale home

Ms Hussain is particularly concerned about the mould after it was confirmed that two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from exposure to black mould in his Rochdale home

‘I’ve heard of a little boy aged two die of this and my baby is two. This mould is at the end of his bed and at the side of the bed where he sleeps.

‘I ring the council every day for help, but nobody seems to be there to help me.

‘I have put in a disrepair claim for condensation and I have lost furniture and clothes due to the stains from the mould.’

Last week Ms Hussain had to be taken to hospital and stayed overnight due to the stress of her situation. 

She was admitted to Northwick Park Hospital with breathing problems and heart palpitations on 18 November, and had to be put on a drip to keep her hydrated. She was kept in overnight for observations and was discharged with medication designed to reduce stress levels.

In June 2022, Ms Hussain received a visit from Environmental Health who said the issue was due to condensation.

Ms Hussain said she has been told that there is nothing Brent Council or her landlord can do to address the issue.

She said: ‘I get told to open the windows to ventilate the flat. In my room there are no windows, how can you ventilate a flat that just has three windows?

‘One of my children has severe asthma, it has affected his breathing, he has been on steroids for three to four weeks and is in and out of the asthma mask.’

She said she has never ‘had a place to call home’ as all of her residences since the age of 16 have had problems.

‘I don’t have anywhere else to go and I can’t go to a B&B as they will stick me in one bedroom with me and my three children.

‘I am paying around £2,000 a month for a flat that is unliveable.

‘In October, my case officer said I would get moved, we are in November now and I am still here.’

She added she has had to set up a GoFundMe due to the amount of furniture and clothing her family has had to get rid of because of the mould.

The family has had to get rid of multiple items of furniture and clothing due to the black mould spreading onto them

The family has had to get rid of multiple items of furniture and clothing due to the black mould spreading onto them

The black mould has spread up the walls around the flat's three windows

It is also visible in most room corners in the flat

Aisha Hussain, 31, says her eldest child, Justin, 16, is asthmatic and the thick black mould that’s formed on their living room and bedroom walls has made his condition worse

Last week Ms Hussain had to be taken to hospital and kept on a drip (Pictured: Aisha Hussain and her two year old son Shahroz)

Last week Ms Hussain had to be taken to hospital and kept on a drip (Pictured: Aisha Hussain and her two year old son Shahroz)

She said: ‘When I go to the council, they fob me off. Every time I go to ring them, my case worker is on annual leave, and my case is not being properly looked at as there is nobody here to look at it.

‘The landlord has come in and given me spray, I have sprayed it down and it makes the mould ten times worse.’

A Brent Council spokesperson said: ‘It is our aim for everyone in Brent to live in a safe and secure home.

‘We take concerns about poor quality or overcrowded private accommodation very seriously and inspect properties quickly whenever problems are raised.

‘As in all situations like this, we have offered the family temporary accommodation and have also served a notice to the landlord to address the safety concerns.

‘The welfare of the family is our upmost priority so we will continue to look for temporary accommodation that meets the family’s needs and work with the landlord to see that any safety concerns are resolved urgently.’

In recent weeks Housing Secretary Michael Gove has launched a crackdown on poor housing conditions by demanding every council and housing authority provide details of how they plan to tackle damp and mould following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak.

Awaab died in December 2020 in Rochdale due to severe breathing problems caused by mould fungus in his blood and lungs, an inquest was told last week.

His family repeatedly begged for help with a serious problem with black mould from housing officials and doctors, but a ‘communication breakdown’ resulted in the problem never being fixed.

This left Awaab with ‘prolonged’ and ‘chronic’ exposure to the substance in a home that was ‘not fit for human habitation’, the inquest into his death heard.

His parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, issued a heartbreaking statement saying they ‘shouted as loudly as we could, but nothing changed.’

Since the inquest’s conclusion Mr Gove has written to every English council leader and social housing provider as he warned that deaths like that of two-year-old Awaab Ishak must ‘never be allowed to happen again’.

The housing ombudsman is currently expediting three investigations into the landlord. Richard Blakely said he has been alerted to three ‘high or medium risk’ complaints involving the landlord and has instructed his team ‘to expedite these investigations’.

It follows the sacking of Gareth Swarbrick, the chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) which was in charge of Awaab’s home, after he flat-out refused to resign despite the inquest’s findings the poor conditions were the direct cause of the toddler’s death. 

‘We shouted as loudly as we could, but nothing changed. We were trapped’: Heartbreaking statement from parents who watched their little boy die

Awaab’s parents issued a statement at the close of the inquest which ruled their son died as a result of exposure to black mould, saying: ‘The past two years have been gruelling.

‘When Awaab died, our lives changed forever. Today, two years on, the coroner has found that our little boy’s prolonged exposure to mould led entirely to his death.

‘We still cannot get our head around the fact that despite all of the complaints we made to RBH, in addition to the information RBH received from an NHS member of staff expressing their concern for Awaab due to mould at the property, RBH did absolutely nothing to rectify the severe mould in our property.

‘We cannot tell you how many health professionals we’ve cried in front and RBH staff we have pleaded to expressing concern for the conditions ourselves and Awaab have been living in. We shouted out as loudly as we could, but despite making all of those efforts, every night we would be coming back to the same problem. Nothing was changing.

‘We felt like we weren’t getting anywhere, and we weren’t. Often our calls weren’t even answered. We don’t feel RBH actually cared about us.

‘Awaab’s coughing fits would sometimes last two to three days. There were days we wouldn’t be able to take Awaab out of the house because of how bad his coughing was – but of course by him staying in the house, this made his coughing worse. We were absolutely trapped.

‘Living in these conditions affected every aspect of our lives. We didn’t feel at peace with ourselves when in the property. All the time we felt troubled.

‘We were anxious and fearful of what the mould was doing to Awaab. Whenever friends would come to visit, they would tell us that the conditions RBH were keeping us in ‘were not right’.

‘We have no doubt at all that we were treated this way because we are not from the country and less aware of how the systems in the UK work. RBH we have a message for you – stop discriminating, stop being racist, stop providing unfair treatment to people coming from abroad who are refugees or asylum seekers, stop housing people in homes you know are unfit for human habitation. We were left feeling absolutely worthless at the hands of RBH.

‘If RBH ever come across similar issues again – we hope they deal with it in a more humane, efficient, professional way than how they behaved with us.

‘We want to end by telling you who our beautiful Awaab was. He was always full of smiles, he liked to joke and was full of life and laughter. He used to enjoy playing on his bike and with his ball. He always wanted to be with us. His absence leaves a huge void.

‘We would like to say a huge thank you for all the advice and support Farleys Solicitors and Christian Weaver of Garden Court North Chambers have given us throughout this difficult process. We would also like to thank HM Senior Coroner for carrying out such a thorough investigation into our son’s death.

‘Our lawyers very kindly worked on our case with no guarantee of payment. The legal aid agency only confirmed that the lawyers would be paid two days before the case started, despite preparations for the case having been ongoing for months and months. It should never be the case that families in our situation have to go through the inquest process without legal representation – singlehandedly up against multiple lawyers from the very bodies we feel bear responsibility for our child’s death.

‘Were it not for our legal team being so committed to representing us, even without payment, that could very well have been our reality. We fear that the admissions made by RBH in this inquest – such as their acceptance that they did receive the letter sent by the NHS health visitor warning of Awaab’s ill heath, along with the fact that they do accept they should have taken responsibility for the mould in our home may otherwise never have come out.

‘The family would now like to be left to process the findings of this inquest in private for the remainder of today.’

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