Woman crushed by ceiling collapse as ITV News exposes yet more social housing failures

ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt uncovers more shocking social housing failures

Words by ITV News Producer Sophie Alexander

Imagine if you were standing in your bedroom and suddenly the entire ceiling came crashing down on you, knocking you to the floor. 

That’s what happened to Adeola Olutade, from Brixton, south London. She was enjoying a restful Sunday while her four-year-old daughter was out with family when she noticed a small leak in the corner of her bedroom.

Fast forward 40 minutes and the leak had turned into a full disaster as the ceiling of Adeola’s bedroom came crashing down on her head, coating her in debris.

An ITV News investigation has unearthed yet more shocking social housing conditions, including the case of a woman's ceiling collapsing in her South London home

Screaming for help, Adeola ran outside where her neighbour, Basil Clarke, was in a similar situation.

Basil had reported leaks in his property to Lambeth Council for the last seven years, but despite them saying they had fixed the problem, on July 25 the ceilings in Basil’s kitchen and living room collapsed, leaving water, dirt and heavy insulation coating his sofas, carpets and family photographs. 

Basil says he has consistently reported leaks to his landlord, Lambeth Council, but these calls have fallen on deaf ears. Credit: ITV News

Adeola was taken to Accident and Emergency and when she returned to her flat a few hours later, shen immediately noticed the entire bathroom ceiling had collapsed, leaving the light hanging from a swaying cable.

Talking to ITV News, Adeola said: “I feel like I’ve been treated like an animal. This just isn’t fair. I pay my rent, I pay my service charge, I pay my council tax. I don’t know anything about ceilings, you just assume they are safe.”

The concrete aftermath of Adeola's ceiling crashing to her floor. Credit: ITV News

Basil, who has a physical disability, is forced to empty huge containers full of water that sit under the holes in his ceilings, three or four times a day.

He told us: “I’ve been telling this same story for seven years and they’ve tried to say that they’ve fixed it. No-one is listening. No-one cares. No-one is listening and no-one is caring. It just falls on deaf ears and then it gets to the point where you give up, I just can’t be bothered no more. I just really can’t.”

'I feel like I have been treated like an animal. This is not fair,' says Adeola Olutade

Lambeth Council have moved Adeola into emergency accommodation where she is currently living with her four-year-old daughter. She says she is still waiting for news of a permanent home.

Basil spent 48 hours in a hotel and is now back in his damp and draughty home, waiting on repairs.

Basil describes his sense of exhaustion after repeated calls for help with housing issues went ignored over several years

A Lambeth Council spokesperson told ITV news: “We regret the disruption caused to residents of Holles House during the recent heavy rain. The recent water ingress was due to the large volume of water that fell in a very short period of time, filling the building’s high-level box gutters. 

“The council and the TMO took immediate action to help residents affected by the water ingress. A number of residents were offered emergency alternative accommodation following this incident, including in a sheltered block on the estate and at a hotel. We are continuing to/will continue to find suitable accommodation where required, while work is carried out at the flats affected."

But across the country, tenants like Adeola and Basil say they have nowhere to turn when these problems keep occurring. 

Basil's ceiling has been worn through. Credit: ITV News

ITV News contacted the 14 leading organisations chosen to advise the UK Government on the long-awaited Social Housing White Paper and its plans to reform the sector. 

Of the 11 that responded to us, all agreed that tenants need dedicated representation in the form of a new national body standing up for their interests. 

Jenny Osborne leads one of them, the tenant engagement group Tpas. She said: "The panel itself has a range of people on, we're pleased to be a part of it. but in terms of tenant voice, we're missing a tenants' panel in this country which could have sat on that expert panel as well. People like us and the other organisations can bring a view of tenants, but I think we're missing that direct tenant representation."

But the government does not agree that a new national tenants' body needs to be set up. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government told ITV News: “The Social Housing White Paper sets out a strong package of measures that will inform, engage and empower residents. We want to ensure their voices are heard and are at the heart of the White Paper.

“We’ve announced major reforms to support tenants, including our Expert Challenge Panel which will provide scrutiny on the delivery of these measures and ensure residents’ views are represented in all discussions.”