Children living in a cockroach-infested Lewisham home with black mould and damp

By Anna Pollitt and Yohannes Lowe

A mother of three young children in a Lewisham housing association flat has been living with a cockroach-infestation so bad exterminators refused to tackle the problem.

Moussokoa Palazzo showed how the inside of her L&Q housing association home is overrun with cockroaches, thick black mould covers the walls and leaking water drips onto electrical sockets in footage filmed by social housing activist Kwajo Tweneboa.

She first complained to L&Q about the cockroaches over a year ago but the insects were never fully removed by exterminators and the problem worsened.

"I reported the case again, they came again but never entered the bedrooms," Palazzo told ITV News London. "They were always rushing to go to other properties."

She repeatedly tackled the problem herself with strong insecticides, but the cockroaches returned.

Palazzo, whose youngest child is four, has recently been diagnosed with inflammation of the liver and doctors are sending her for more blood tests.

She suspects the harsh chemicals may have had a lasting impact on her body.

The 41-year-old says her mental health has also been badly affected by her family’s living situation, but she daren’t seek help in case her children, who are all under 12, get taken from her.

Tweneboa filmed a series of videos in the new-build property that show Palazzo’s front door so bloated by damp it can barely be opened and closed.

"I’ve been living with the black mould for many years now," she told ITV News London. "The whole ceiling has always been getting mould, it's a permanent issue."

She reported the property's latest leak on January 11 but had to stay there with her family for over two weeks as damp-loving cockroaches multiplied and mould expanded across the walls.

Palazzo and her family were finally moved to temporary accommodation last week, but remain in limbo after L&Q said they must await extensive repairs to the flat, including its heating system, damage caused by the damp and for the cockroaches to be removed.

L&Q told ITV News London it was sorry for the "unacceptable" conditions.

"We’ve already apologised to the resident and have been working closely with them and the heating supplier to ensure we put things right.

"The family were moved into temporary accommodation last week, so that we can repair their home. "Inspections to investigate the issues with the heating system and the resulting damage to the property, including the doors, have already been carried out.

"A pest control report has now been completed and the infestation will be cleared before the family return.

"Engineers are scheduled to fix the heating system this week, and following this we will carry out any remaining repairs needed. We are also liaising with other residents in the block to carry out inspections of their homes. "We apologise unreservedly for the upset and disruption that this has caused."

As 23-year-old Tweneboa’s investigation drew attention on Twitter, Lewisham Council tweeted to say the conditions were "completely unacceptable".

"The mum and three children have been living in the house since 2012 and say they have reported the leaks multiple times," Tweneboa told ITV News London.

"The council sent pest control in, which have put bait down for the animals, but the infestation is so big that that's going to do absolutely nothing.

"They do not want to go back to the property. I don't blame them.

"This was bad. I have seen thousands of houses and it was a complete other level. It was beyond an infestation. I was concerned I had carried some home when I was leaving.

"The swollen doors are also a safety hazard. These housing associations do not care. It is something I have been saying for a long time."

"L&Q's PR says they care about the conditions of the residents living in their homes."

On Thursday afternoon L&Q altered its position and said Palazzo and her children would be moved to new permanent accommodation.

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said it had raised concerns with L&Q, who are responsible for managing the property.

"The conditions highlighted in this property are completely unacceptable," a council spokesperson said.

"We expect all housing providers to take swift action to respond to their tenants’ concerns and carry out repairs when required," the statement added.

"We are pleased to hear that the family in question were moved into temporary accommodation earlier this week so that the property can be treated and repaired.

The council said it will "continue liaising" with the housing association over the family's situation.