Chingford tenants’ rage over council refusal to compensate for flood damage from contaminated water tank

Residents of a Waltham Forest Council owned building that was flooded by contaminated water say the council is refusing to compensate them for thousands of pounds of damage.

The four-storey building in The Ridgeway, Chingford, suffered floods from a leak on its roof on October 7 last year.

However, while residents stayed at hotels or friends’ homes for two weeks, they say workers and the London Fire Brigade told them the flood water was contaminated by bird droppings from a water tank room on the roof.

According to a resident who witnessed the clear-up, workers in hazmat suits carried out “about 40” bags of bird poo taken from the rooftop room.

Images and videos of the incident appear to show the tank room did not have a door and was instead closed using a sheet of plywood that left it partially open to the elements.

Sylvia Sheppard, 76, who lives on the ground floor, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the council has only offered her £290 for damage which she says totals about £3,800.

This includes an expensive memory foam mattress and a fridge freezer full of expensive meats and fish.

She said: “[Waltham Forest Council is] liable because they failed to maintain the building, and obviously that makes me very upset… my flat is really, really pristine.”

“The whole building was dripping with water, it’s just a lack of maintenance for a number of years.

“They didn’t have evidence that they maintained it, there were bags of bird s**t pulled out – they had to send people up there in white suits because it was so bad!”

Jane Addison, who lives on the third floor, claims the council should pay her £6,800 for extensive damage to her property including her floor, cooker, other kitchen items and a digital camera.

She said the council told her it hoped to “mitigate the losses” by offering her £1,270.

This was calculated by deciding that every item should be capped at £100 along with a 25 per cent deduction on all items for “wear and tear”.

Ms Addison said: “[The council] said it was their fault at a meeting and that the insurance would have to go through the council anyway. It was their neglect that caused this.”

“It’s been delay, delay, delay, then they agreed it was their fault but said ‘here, have literally nothing’.

“I couldn’t get a second-hand cooker from an Oxfam shop for £75.”

Jane added that while other tenants were given hotel accommodation and food expenses while the building was cleaned and repaired, she saved the council money by sleeping at a friend’s home nearby.

She said: “They told me I would have to rely on friends and family for help so I slept on a blow-up mattress for three weeks.”

Jane, who used to work for a building maintenance company, said the council has ignored her requests for details of whether the water tank has been checked or tested in recent years.

When contacted for comment, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and regeneration Ahsan Khan said that all residents were offered “internal redecoration” of their flats.

He added: “We recommend that all tenants take out contents insurance as the council is not able to cover the costs of damaged items.

“Unfortunately, none of the residents had content insurance so, as a gesture of goodwill, we offered compensation for items that had proof of purchase, or a capped amount for items with no proof of purchase.

“Two residents rejected the offer – it remains open if more details of the damaged items can be provided.

“Since the repair works were completed in October 2022, we have been conducting monthly water tests at the address to ensure tenants’ safety.”

When asked to clarify exactly what had contaminated the water, the council’s spokesperson did not respond.

Water poured through Jane Addison’s kitchen ceiling, damaging her cooker beyond repair
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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter