A family has won £20,000 from a South London council after it blamed their ‘lifestyle’ for a decade-long damp problem that caused mould to grow on a baby’s cot. 

Lewisham Council failed to investigate the ‘root cause’ of the issue and was still insisting a yearly mould wash was enough to deal with the problem eight years after the unnamed resident first reported a leak, a Housing Ombudsman report published on Thursday (March 14) revealed.

The living room and bathroom walls of the property were covered in mould and mould was even found on a mattress that the family’s children slept on.

A letter from the kids’ school showed their attendance plummeted from above 90 per cent to 70 per cent in a year due to absences linked to coughs, colds and infections.

The report added that the council did not demonstrate how it supported the family while they were dealing with the recurring damp and mould.

It was also criticised for failing to consider the family’s health and wellbeing.

The case is one of three involving the council where the Housing Ombudsman, which deals with complaints about social landlords, found severe failings with regards to how it dealt with damp and mould.

The Ombudsman ordered the council to pay out over £40,000 in total to the affected residents.

One tenant, who suffered from asthma, was left with severe mould in their home after the council dragged its feet dealing with a window repair for six years.

Meanwhile, the unnamed tenant had to live with their windows being held together by tape.

The Ombudsman said the council’s response didn’t show it acted with ‘any urgency’ in trying to complete the repairs.

Instead the council appeared to be delaying fixing the problem until a major works programme took place, the report said.

The resident was awarded £19,500 by the Ombudsman and the council’s chief executive was told to write a letter of apology to them.

A third resident won £1,700 compensation from the council after it failed to deal with a leak quickly enough.

The council’s delays meant the unnamed leaseholder’s belongings were damaged by mould and they were unable to use one of the property’s bedrooms.

In December 2023, Lewisham Council referred itself to the Regulator of Social Housing over concerns about the quality of its housing stock.

The council manages over 13,500 homes. In October 2023, it brought thousands of homes back under its control from Lewisham Homes.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said the cases showed significant room for improvement in how the council dealt with damp and mould problems.

He said: “The financial awards at this level are unusual, reflecting the impact on the residents and the prolonged period of service failure they experienced.

"It is crucial landlords learn the lessons of these cases so that funding can go into services rather than redress service failings.”

Lewisham Council said it had identified how it could have prevented failings in the three cases and had been improving services since it took over Lewisham Homes last year.

A spokesperson said: “We have also undertaken a comprehensive review of our approach to complaints handling. We will publish the outcome of our reviews and share action plans with residents.

“In progress is a stock condition survey of all our housing stock to build a more accurate picture of their condition to direct investment where it is most needed. Our capital programme commits to £321 million of investment in the stock over five years.

“Alongside this, we are making major investments to modernise our systems for managing and storing information.

"With a new housing management system now in place, we are developing new ways to use data to deliver better outcomes for residents.”