London council ordered to pay £50,000 to woman forced to live in mouldy home

A judge at Central London County Court found that the property had been in disrepair between 2010 and 2020 (PA Archive)
A judge at Central London County Court found that the property had been in disrepair between 2010 and 2020 (PA Archive)

A London council has been ordered to pay over £50,000 in damages to a woman who was forced to live in a council home "with intolerable living conditions".

Hammersmith and Fulham Council "chose to ignore" the woman's struggles with leaks, damp, mould, cracked walls and ceilings, as well as defective doors and windows, her law firm Hodge, Jones & Allen has said.

The tenant, known only as Ms D, faced issues with her property since she moved in.

She had been a secure tenant in the west London borough since May 2010.

Proceedings were issued against the council after Hodge, Jones & Allen partner Farzana Chowdhury arranged for an independent surveyor to look at the property.

The surveyor confirmed the home was "unfit for human habitation" and a judge at Central London County Court found the property had been in disrepair between 2010 and 2020 during a trial on November 9.

Between 2010 and 2014 there were cracks in the walls and ceilings of the home, as well as damp and mould.

The roof of the property also leaked between 2013 and March 2020.

A judge awarded damages for the issues between 2010 and 2020 and asked for all rent paid from March 2020 to be given back after the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force.

Ms Chowdhury said: "This is a significant decision and one of the first on a property’s fitness for human habitation.

"The judge held that if a property is deemed unfit for human habitation, the tenant derives no benefit from it and, therefore, the diminution of the rent should be 100%.

"My client suffered intolerable living conditions for a number of years and Hammersmith and Fulham chose to ignore her situation. This is the only decision the court could come too."

Hammersmith and Fulham Council told the Standard it "accepts unconditionally the decision of the court".

A council spokesperson said: "We have made a sincere and unreserved apology to the local resident and fully acknowledge that we failed to resolve the repairs needed in a timely manner.

"We have carried out a pre-works inspection with relevant specialists and are discussing and agreeing a detailed works programme with the tenant.

"We are learning lessons from every case and implementing changes, including listening more closely to residents, investing in contractor capacity and building our management team to ensure that oursupply chain meets the required service standards.

"We now have dedicated contractors to handle outstanding repairs and new Disrepair and Complaints & Resolution teams to deal with escalated repairs cases in our ageing housing stock.

"We are now completing an average of over 1,000 repairs per week. Since May 2023, the number of outstanding repair jobs has fallen by 27% and the unresolved number of damp and mould repairs by 86%. We are now handling all complaints about repairs by the prescribed deadline.

"We will continue to fundamentally transform our Housing service to consistently provide homes for residents of which they and we can be proud."