Residents of a Catford block of flats staged an angry placard waving protest outside Lewisham Council offices this week urging the council to take action over what they claim is inadequate heating, poor security, disrepair, chronic damp and mould.
40 residents of Eros House on Brownhill road backed by the London Renters Union, handed in a letter to the council outlining their housing conditions that they say is the result of serious underinvestment in the building.
Lewisham Council, which leases 45 flats in the privately owned block and District Homes who manage the block have allegedly refused to take responsibility for the structural and internal issues despite evidence being presented to them by the protestors. District Homes have declined to comment on the allegations.
Lucy Gardner, 34, a volunteer for the LRU said: “We’re here today because we’ve been trying for six months to get the council to fix up Eros House. There’s a private landlord that owns the block of 80 flats who bought it two years ago who’s doing nothing to it.”
Gardner continued: “People living in the flats are freezing, the heaters don’t work or they’re dangerous.”
The tenants are asking the council to take responsibility for managing the relationship between them and District Homes, so they can put some of the money that is taken, back into Eros House.
Gardner said: “We don’t want anymore talking, we don’t want anymore meetings, we want to fix the heating. Winter is now approaching, people are freezing, people literally can’t sleep.”
Councillor Paul Bell, Lewisham Cabinet Member for Housing said: “Rushey Green Ward Councillors have been working very hard to support residents in Eros House. They have invited the London Renters Union in as part of a working together and ensuring the best deal for private rented tenants.”
Bell and two senior officers went to meet the residents and the London Renters Union at Eros House yesterday, offering the opportunity to take them on a tour of the flats. This request was not taken up.
Another issue that residents often face is the cost of electricity and heating in the building. Gardner said: “Somebody paid a bill of £400 for six weeks last winter which almost left them bankrupt, they had no money for anything else.”
Rasheed Oke, 35, who has lived in the block for three years said: “I pay close to £280 for electricity in just one month.”
Oke added: “I have used my own money to fix the toilet, to fix the kitchen and heating system. Whenever I call them, they make us believe that they are not responsible for that. Yet, they keep taking our money. Right now, we have no choice but to live here. It’s not conducive for my two children or my wife.”
Residents have also noticed flats being converted from a one bedroom to a two bedroom flat without doing renovations.
Aisha Arrieta, 21, a single mother said: “The other issue I have is that the main door to get into the building is broken. They fix it, then the next day it’s broken again by people who want to get into the building. Whether it’s to smoke, to drink alcohol, to smoke drugs… I’ve seen drug addicts coming out of that building day in and day out and no one is coming to do anything.”
Arrieta continued: “I’ve got two babies living in that house that I don’t feel safe in, and I don’t have a choice. If I turn down my temporary accommodation, I’m going to be homeless.”
Bell said: “Refurbishment works are ongoing to individual flats as they are handed over to District Homes. Security issues have been addressed with the provision of 24-hour security on site which was a major problem for the residents.”
Eros House was bought two years ago by a north London based property company Quinata Global and appears to be managed by District Homes. Parts of the block have also been used by Croydon and Wandsworth councils to house tenants, although Croydon stressed they did not have any tenants currently housed in Eros House. Quinata have refused to comment.