East London residents battling black mould and broken fire alarms amid repeated, unresolved flooding issues

“Things have to get worse for someone to take control. They’re better off fixing it when it gets bad before it gets really bad, but they don’t seem to understand that.”
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Residents living in an east London block are battling flood-induced issues from black mould to broken lighting, with one father saying his children cry when it rains as “they think this house is going to collapse on them”.

Connett House, located roughly 10 minutes from Bethnal Green station in Tower Hamlets, has been hit with severe leakages on several occasions over the last few years.

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London Fire Brigade records show they have attended the building four times in the last two years alone, to reports of either flooding or water coming through the ceiling.

Residents living in the block however say the problem has been reoccurring since the midst of the pandemic, more than four years ago.

Following the most recent instance of heavy rain, on the evening of September 21, several tenants were temporarily moved to a hotel due to the extent of the flooding.

Video footage, seen by LondonWorld, shows a kitchen and front room totally covered in water, with the residents literally splashing around the apartment.

Connett House, not far from Bethnal Green, is owned by Tower Hamlets Community Housing. Credit: Ben Lynch.Connett House, not far from Bethnal Green, is owned by Tower Hamlets Community Housing. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Connett House, not far from Bethnal Green, is owned by Tower Hamlets Community Housing. Credit: Ben Lynch.
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Several of those living in Connett House have told this publication how repeated occurrences of flooding have resulted in issues including black mould, damaged fire alarms and stained walls.

They add that they believe housing association, Tower Hamlets Community Housing (THCH), has failed to properly address the problem, despite assurances.

THCH said it recognises the level of service provided and the time taken has “not been up to the standard we aspire to deliver”, and that it believes it has now identified the cause of the water ingress.

One resident, Chris Udunna, lives with his four children, including a six-year-old girl with autism, and wife in a two-bedroom flat.

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Mr Udunna said multiple instances of heavy rain over the last four years have damaged various essential items in the property, including a fire alarm, which he claims THCH did not replace for more than a year, his fridge, and cupboards.

When LondonWorld visited, Mr Udunna pointed out a space on his ceiling where a light used to fit. He said it had to be removed during a previous downpour, and that he awaits a new one from THCH. A power socket was also hanging from the ceiling, with tape placed around the wires.

Mr Udunna said the tape was applied to plug a gap which had been created by the rain between the wires and ceiling, causing not only water to stream through but also mice, which had fallen into his kitchen.

Chris Udunna said he had put tape on his ceiling after rain, and then mice, came through a gap. Credit: Ben Lynch.Chris Udunna said he had put tape on his ceiling after rain, and then mice, came through a gap. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Chris Udunna said he had put tape on his ceiling after rain, and then mice, came through a gap. Credit: Ben Lynch.

Among the other items damaged in Mr Udunna’s home was a radiator in his living room. This had been removed in 2019, he said, with some of the piping behind it left exposed.

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He said this was unsafe, especially with his autistic daughter, and that he and his family were still waiting for THCH to provide a replacement.

Black mould was also present in Mr Udunna’s home. The fungus, which is known to pose health risks especially to young children and babies, was particularly noticeable in the bathroom and around a doorframe.

Asked how the flooding impacted him and his family, Mr Udunna said: “I feel bad, I’m helpless. I’m helpless.

“I have little kids. They have no place to study.”

Black mould around the doorframe in Mr Udunna’s flat. Credit: Ben Lynch.Black mould around the doorframe in Mr Udunna’s flat. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Black mould around the doorframe in Mr Udunna’s flat. Credit: Ben Lynch.

Mr Udunna, who has lived in Connett House for 16 years, added that despite the ongoing issues, all of his costs are “going up”.

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“My kids are crying. They think this house is going to collapse on them. The whole family is devastated,” he said.

On how it affects his daughter, Mr Udunna said: “It’s tough for her. It’s very tough for her. Not only her, it’s a trauma to the whole of them. Even my big boy.

“Everything is falling apart.”

‘It really needs to be bad before anything is done’

Walking around Connett House a week after the rain on September 21, several of the corridors were dim due to lights still not working, and the smell of damp was pungent throughout the block.

Another resident, Moshood Mohaotan, who lives with his mother and father, told LondonWorld that “whenever it rains, it gets really bad”.

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He said he and his family have had to pay to clean their carpet after their flat flooded previously, in addition to cupboards and other items, similar to Mr Udunna.

Mr Mohaotan said he does not go out if it is going to rain, in order to stay home and help manage the leakages.

“Things have to get worse for someone to take control. They’re better off fixing it when it gets bad before it gets really bad, but they don’t seem to understand that,” he said.

Black mould in Mr Udunna’s bathroom. Credit: Ben Lynch.Black mould in Mr Udunna’s bathroom. Credit: Ben Lynch.
Black mould in Mr Udunna’s bathroom. Credit: Ben Lynch.

Dylan Turner, who lives with his mother, said he is having to stay with a friend due to the condition of his flat.

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His mother, who has PTSD and COPD, a respiratory condition, is living with a family member.

The door to their home has expanded so much that, when LondonWorld visited, Mr Turner had to stick his hands through his letter box to open it.

Having lived in Connett House since it was built, Mr Turner said the impacts of the repeated flooding on their home is “very demoralising”, adding for his mum “it’s a very big issue”.

Residents in the block told LondonWorld that several had fallen ill recently, including Mr Udunna’s children, which they suspect is due to the condition of their homes.

Tower Hamlets Community Housing

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Commenting on the ongoing issues at Connett House, Simon Hall, head of reactive repairs at THCH, said: “We recognise that the recurring water ingress issue at Connett House has caused distress to our residents.

“The level of service provided and the time it has taken to address this issue have not been up to the standard we aspire to deliver. We’re sorry our residents have had this experience.

“The cause of the water ingress has been identified as a blocked rainwater pipe. Previous attempts by contractors to fully clear the pipe has unfortunately been ineffective.

“We’ve now initiated a full investigation into the condition of the rainwater pipes and the root cause of the problem. If necessary, we will provide repairs or replacement of the entire system.

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“We’re working closely with our residents who have been impacted by the floods. We’ve responded to reports of damp and mould and have conducted a thorough inspection of the affected areas.

“We understand the frustration and inconvenience the situation has caused and acknowledge that there may be concerns about heavy rain. We’re actively working to fully resolve the issues at Connett House as soon as possible and provide all residents with a secure and comfortable living environment.”

THCH is currently in the midst of negotiations as part of a potential merger with another major east London housing association, Poplar HARCA.

Residents at THCH have however raised concerns about the deal, due to rising service charges and other such costs, and are calling for a voice in proceedings.

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LondonWorld also reported how THCH was found by a housing tribunal earlier this year to have been overcharging some of its tenants for years, with one leaseholder estimating they have overpaid thousands of pounds.

The housing association has however been granted permission to appeal the decision, with a hearing expected in the new year.

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