Fed up Blackheath couple in constant battle as 'bathroom leaks every time it rains'

Kevin Barry poses for photos in his house in Blackheath in South East London
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

A Greenwich pensioner has said his bathroom leaks 'every time it rains', claiming it has been a constant battle to stop his council flat 'rotting from the inside out'. Kevin Barry, 71, has lived in his Blackheath flat for 28 years with his wife Rita, 72.

The council tenants claimed that for the past month, the bathroom of his flat has leaked and experienced increasingly severe mould each time it rains. Mrs Barry said they first noticed the issue on April 28 this year, when water began leaking from the window of the toilet.

The mum told MyLondon: "I reported it when we were having heavy rain. I had to ring the emergency out of hours team. It happened overnight on the weekend so we called them. The water was leaking from both sides of the window in the toilet.

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The bathroom window in the Barry's council flat
Mrs Barry said she first noticed the leak in the toilet on April 28 -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

"It was just dripping constantly on the floor. I had to put plastic buckets and newspapers there." She added: "They said the guttering was leaking. They just put some mastic on the edges of the window."

The tenant said a property officer from the council visited their flat in early May and claimed it could take up to eight weeks until a more permanent solution could be installed. The authority reportedly arranged a repair date for June 25, but the tenants claimed the leak returned on May 21.

Mrs Barry said: "I had to ring the out of hours people as it was leaking again. They came and said they were unable to do anything because it was too wet but they said it should be done as an emergency."

Mr Barry added: "We’re trying to emphasise to them that we’ve got another council tenant underneath us. So it's two properties in one house and he could have problems, he could have damp now. We don’t know."

Kevin Barry poses for photos outside his home in Blackheath
The dad said he is worried how the leak will affect the other council flat in the building -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

The dad said the issue began when the original metal guttering on the building was replaced by a smaller, plastic drainpipe which has caused water to saturate the outside wall when it rains. Mrs Barry said the process of asking the council to fix the problem has been frustrating.

She said: "You try and ring them, you can't get through. You're on the phone for 40 minutes. No one answers and then they say they will ring you back." The mum added: "We’re just fed up with it all. I'm just waiting for it to rain then it will come pouring in again. Luckily we've had some dry weather lately but as soon as it starts raining it will come through."

The tenant said she has since been told by the council that scaffolding would be needed to fix the building’s guttering, and the scheduled repair date at the end of this month could not be brought forward. Mr Barry added that the couple have begun to explore taking legal action against the council for its delay in addressing the issue.

The toilet in the Barry's Blackheath home
The issue comes as nearly 150 staff members of Greenwich Council’s housing repairs team go on strike -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

The tenants’ current issue with their bathroom comes as nearly 150 staff members of Greenwich Council’s housing repairs team strike against the authority’s plans to cut wages by 30 per cent, Unite the Union has claimed. The union has said that the authority has refused to negotiate on the issue and made threats to fire and refire workers, who would allegedly lose nearly £17,000 from their salary after four years of the planned cuts.

Union members have scheduled two more sets of strikes from July 1-2 and July 15-16, following industrial action at the end of May and earlier this month. The union claimed housing repairs across the borough would be delayed and disrupted due to the walkout.

A council spokesperson said it was reviewing the wage for some of its repair staff who had salaries well above industry average due to a 'complicated and historic' bonus agreement. They said the council was committed to engaging with unions, but Unite the Union had rejected its proposal of a new structure, asking for above average wages and a £60,000 lump sum for each employee instead.

The spokesperson said: "This offer is unreasonable, unaffordable and frankly unrealistic – and unfair on staff who have engaged in productive conversations to this point and deserve clarity. While we respect the union’s right to ballot for strike action, we would very much welcome a return to reasonable discussions. In the meantime we have all the appropriate resources in place to carry out essential repairs for our tenants."

Kevin Barry poses for photos in his home in Blackheath
Mr Barry said he previously had issues with mould in his bedroom in 2022 -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Mr Barry said the side of the flat the toilet is on has had previous issues regarding damp, with mould in his bedroom being so bad at the end of 2022 that he and his wife had to sleep on a camp bed and couch cushions in their living room to avoid it. Work to resolve the issue in the bedroom was completed by the council in February 2023.

The pensioner said: "28 years on, I'm still trying to keep the place from falling down or rotting from the inside out. It’s a constant battle… You've got people like ourselves who aren’t getting any younger. We’re trying to stay as healthy as possible. It's a lovely place, but it’s taken a lifetime. For 28 years we've been battling to keep it and try to get a place that is decent enough to live in without having all this happen and ruining everything."

A Greenwich Council spokesperson told MyLondon that roofers from the authority’s repair service had visited the tenants’ property on June 25 and the gutters for the building had been arranged to be cleared next week. They said the council would continue to work alongside the couple on any further repairs required.

The spokesperson added: "We are working hard to remove the mould in Mr and Mrs Barry’s home and understand the impact this has had on them. It is something we take extremely seriously. Moving forward, an independent survey will take place to see how we can permanently resolve the mould in the property."

Have a story you want to share? Email joseph.coughlan@reachplc.com.

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