Bromley mum-of-six fears separation from kids after waiting over a year for a home

Kathleen Chambers poses for photo in a cafe in London (photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)
Kathleen Chambers poses for photo in a cafe in London (photo: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

A South London mum said she fears being separated from her kids after being placed in a series of unsuitable properties by the local council, which included “rats” and “leaking sewage”.

Kathleen Chambers, 38, claims she has been waiting over a year to be offered a property by Bromley Council that is suitable for her and her six children.

The mum said the council accepted her emergency accommodation application in October 2022.

She said she and her five children stayed with family and friends while she was pregnant until she was offered a property in Wolverhampton that December.

Ms Chambers told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “There was no furniture. There was all of the last tenant’s rubbish everywhere. All their clothes were in the house. It was absolutely filthy.

"There was a skip’s worth of rubbish in the back garden and the front garden. I had a housing officer come down and confirm that it was never ready for someone to move into like they stated.”

The mum said it took weeks for the rubbish to be cleared from the property, with the banister in the staircase allegedly falling off the wall while she was using it.

The mum said she then went into hospital in February this year to be treated for liver failure and the birth of her premature son.

She said: “No one from housing let the letting agents know that I was in hospital. They say they didn’t, it’s a bit of a dispute.

"They emptied my property, everything I own. They took everything out the house. They said that nobody let them know I was in hospital and they thought I’d abandoned the property.”

The mum said the items taken away included a brand new cot for her baby and her late parents’ clothing.

She said she then stayed in an Airbnb and hostels with her kids from March until the council placed her in a property in Catford, which she claimed had a rodent infestation coming from a hole in her child’s wardrobe.

She said: “Within a few days of staying there, my daughter came running down the stairs. She nearly fell and twisted her ankle, screaming there was a rat in her bedroom.

"Absolutely massive… In the walls in the night time you could hear the scratching, like they were really trying to get out.”

Ms Chambers claimed the landlord of the property ignored complaints from her and Bromley Council, and that she wasn’t able to put her newborn baby on the floor to play due to the rodents.

She said she had to employ a solicitor to resolve the issue, while other problems such as no hot water and leaking sewage also affected the property.

She said: “About three days out of when I was there, we had hot water. That was it. We were there about nine weeks.”

She added: “In the bathroom downstairs, there were these little horrible sewage flies, and all you could smell was sewage. It was horrible, no matter how much bleach I would put in there. It was leaking somewhere there.”

Ms Chambers said she and her kids were moved out of the Catford property in September and offered a new space in Newham.

The mum claimed she still has not received working keys to the home despite the locks being changed several times, with the state of the inside also being extremely dirty and the previous tenant’s cat being left in the garden.

She said: “This place was absolutely filthy and disgusting. It was not just a little bit of dirt, it’s been in there for a very long time.

"The baby got flea bites all over him because they left a mattress in there that obviously the cat must have slept on. It had faeces and urine stains on the mattress, and you could see these black things hopping.”

The mum said she had arranged for her kids to be away with family and friends for four weeks while the property was initially made suitable.

She said that the council has now warned her to move into the property within two weeks or the authority will remove its duty to house her.

She claimed she was told this despite the council allegedly receiving a letter from social services last week to say the Newham property is unsuitable and Ms Chambers will have her kids taken away if she tries to move into it with them.

She said: “I actually feel let down really badly because my kids don’t trust any professionals now. How am I going to get my kids back into school? They have witnessed so much.”

She added: “We haven’t sat at a table and had a meal together in over a year. People take things like that for granted.”

A Bromley Council spokesperson told the LDRS: “While the council is limited in what it can comment on due to ongoing legal discussions in this case, we are committed to securing suitable accommodation for the residents who need it, including in this case.”

The letting agents responsible for the properties Ms Chambers was allocated to have been approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.