Walthamstow tenant left to cope with leak in flat for over a year

A Walthamstow mum has had foul-smelling liquid leaking into her flat for over a year after repeated failures by the council to fix the problem.

Daniela Bimms, 50, lives in the St George’s Court estate and has been struggling with recurrent leaks in her flat since February last year.

Despite multiple visits from contractors, the latest leak has yet to be fixed, with one contractor reportedly telling her pipes throughout the building needed replacing.

In March, a report prepared by council officers showed that 81 per cent of repairs in council properties were overdue because the work was “heavily impacted” by lockdown.

Previous attempts to seal the leak have been unsuccessful

Daniela told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I’ve been calling the council all the time to come here and try to fix it… it’s been more than 20 times.

“I love living here, this is my home and has been for 15 years, but I’ve never had such a big problem and I do not know what to do. Even when I clean everything, it’s still stained black.

“Over Christmas I had to call the emergency number because we had really black water coming through the corridor, they came but they could not do anything.

“The smell was appalling, I was concerned about my health and my kids’ health. I should not have to live like that, I have not done anything wrong, I pay my rent.”

She added that previous attempts to seal the leak, including with cement, had been unsuccessful as it just opened again.

A council spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear about this resident’s problems. We have been talking to her since January when we were first made aware of the problem.

“Unfortunately the repair required will involve the replacement of the soil stack and for this to happen all the residents living above her property will have to avoid using the bathroom for a little while.

“This has been complicated because of COVID restrictions but following her initial call we carried out a short-term fix to the pipework within the month.

“Arrangements are being put in hand and we expect the remaining work to be completed within the next week.”

At a budget and performance scrutiny committee meeting on March 31, councillors discussed the performance of the new maintenance contractor for all council homes, Morgan Sindall.

Cllr John Moss (Con, Larkswood) revealed the council is in “dispute” with former contractor Osborne over “lax” service and called for resident feedback on how Morgan Sindall is doing.

He said: “I fully accept the service has vastly improved (but) the report does not include any information on residents’ perception of the quality of the service.

“We are in dispute with a former provider because the administration of the service… was so lax.

“Three or four years ago, the report from the team was saying 70 to 90 per cent (of repairs were done on time) but residents were saying 40 to 60 per cent.

“Residents were reporting faults and people were not attending but those faults were being recorded as closed and having to be rebooked.

“I have no doubt that some of the financial differences between us and Osborne relates to where we paid for work that we thought had been done that had not been done. All we are seeing here is what the council and the service are telling us.”

A report noted that, while 81 per cent of repairs were overdue, the council has been “working closely” with Morgan Sindall “to plan how to clear the backlog… as we start to exit lockdown.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter