Croydon grandmother loses wedding photos in devastating council flat flood amid 'blame game'
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A Croydon grandmother says she "lost everything" after a bungled plumbing job flooded her council flat with mains water.
The 64-year-old woke to find water dripping from the ceiling into her West Croydon council flat of 16 years on September 27.
When Rosemary went upstairs to investigate, she found workmen from Mulalley, Croydon’s kitchen fitting contractor, struggling to stop the flow of mains water into the flat.
She said: “Just after 8am, I woke up and could hear dripping and looked in my bathroom to see that water was dripping from the ceiling. I knew they were fixing the kitchen upstairs, so I went to open the door to shout up to the workmen. The water literally started cascading down through the ceiling and all the workers were running around like headless chickens trying to find a stopcock.
“When the workers tried to turn off the main stopcock, the pipe snapped and the main water pipe burst, sending full power mains water coming through into my flat for 40 minutes. It snapped because the stopcock was metal and the pipework was rusted, which was a result of a previous leak I had. If it wasn’t for the wet room in my flat, I would be up to my ankles in water.
“They couldn’t stop the full force of the water and in the meantime, all that water’s gone into my flat. On that day, I sat in my garden all day while people came in and out taking pictures. I was there in my nightie and slippers, and all they did for me that day was find me new accommodation.”
Rosemary, who uses a wheelchair and is in temporary accommodation in Lower Addiscombe, made several attempts to return to the flat to try and salvage her many personal belongings. She was repeatedly told that she could not enter due to the health risk and mould in the flat. Rosemary has COPD and so could not enter the house to conduct an early insurance check.
She said: “The following day I went back expecting them to empty the flat out because everything was soaking wet and had to go. By now, the wallpaper and ceiling paper has come down. Instead of that, they put a humidifier in instead of emptying all the stuff out.”
Rosemary's daughter, Sandra Burns, said her mother felt she was neglected on the day of the flood.
She said: “The day it happened, there were council people everywhere, but you couldn’t get an answer out of them. There was no sign of an apology, no one even acknowledged that she was there. It was just as well the weather was good at that point because she was just there in my nightie and slippers.
“All this humidifier has done is created more mould because it’s letting out hot air, which mould thrives in. They have just made it worse for themselves, because had they emptied it that week the damage would have been minimal. They haven’t done anything or even seen it.”
“The council haven’t been back in there to see the extent of the damage since they took their original pictures. Everything is mouldy, the mould in there is so bad you can taste it in the back of your throat. There are bottles on the kitchens on the side that have gone mouldy.”
Former school cook Rosemary believes the delayed visits to her flat to recover her soaking possessions meant many of her personal possessions have been lost to damp and mould.
She said: “We are now a week and a half in since Mulalley’s insurance counter-claim, and there’s more damage now than there was before. Although they claimed it would all be washed and cleaned, I don’t want it all now, it’s all wet.”
Sandra said: “Her bed alone cost over £1,000, the mattress was over £500. My mum saves the little money she does get to buy herself quality stuff. She’s a single lady, why not? We don’t even know if her wedding photos are safe because they are under the bed. I don’t think they realise the enormity of the loss.”
Rosemary believes the delay in her returning home is due to a dispute between Croydon Council and Mulalley about who is responsible for paying for the damage. She said she arrived at this conclusion after conversations with tradespeople who have worked on the property.
This was not the first time Rosemary has experienced flooding as a result of a pipe leak, leaving water "teeming through the hallway, the kitchen and bathroom".
She said: "All the council did was repair the kitchen units that were damaged and had only been completed three weeks before. It was brand new for three weeks before the rusty pipes, whereas this recent leak was the mains pipe which damaged the entire of my flat.
“They think that because they’ve put a roof over my head that I will put up and shut up. No I won’t, it is my home. Don’t get me wrong, the flat they have put me in is very clean, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I shouldn’t be there, I should be in my home. I seriously can’t take it any more.”
Croydon Council and Mulalley were approached for comment.