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Mother forced to live in a damp ridden home was scared she was 'going to die'

A young mother who was forced to live in a mould and damp ridden housing association flat says she cried herself to sleep at night not knowing if her one year old daughter "was going to wake up the next day". 

Shelby Atherton, 20, moved into her two-bedroom flat in Rochdale in October 2023.

But just a few weeks later she reported serious problems with mould and damp to her landlord Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH).

Ms Atherton told Sky News: "I was in hospital because of it. Constantly choking and being sick. I didn't eat for six, seven days straight, once the mould got that bad.

"I ended up in hospital on steroids and antibiotics because of how bad the mould had affected my chest."

The rot spread to almost every room in the flat and destroyed all Ms Atherton's furniture, carpets and clothes.

"I just lay there on my bed just crying because everything is just gone and ruined.

"I've only just moved in, trying to make it a home, and my little girl, like our first proper home.

"I tried to make Christmas nice for her and everything's just ruined. I've lost all my clothes. I've lost my furniture, my daughter's bed. She's not even got a bed to go home to."

RBH told Sky News: "We are sorry that Ms Atherton has experienced these issues with her home, and we reiterate our apology to her. We are working hard to carry out the repairs needed as quickly as possible. Our number one priority is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our customers."

RBH also managed the property where Awaab Ishak lived. The two-year-old died in December 2020 after suffering from a serious respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to mould.

His death has prompted the government to propose "Awaab's law": new legal requirements that could see social landlords taken to court if they fail to investigate tenant concerns within a fortnight.

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They will also be compelled to begin repair work within a week and attend emergencies within 24 hours.

In response to the move, RBH said: "This was a tragic case that resulted from failings at RBH and we are very clear it should never have happened. We remain committed to our promise to learn from what went wrong and put things right."

Ms Atherton and her daughter have been relocated into temporary accommodation in a local hotel while repair work is carried out on her flat.

She is all too aware of the tragic outcome in Awaab Ishak's case which has left her terrified of returning to the flat.

"My little girl could have gone without me. I was that poorly where I genuinely thought I was going to die, like I couldn't breathe.

"So I just don't know. I'm just hoping that it does get sorted and we can make it into a home again."