Leeds mother cites health fears for baby son over mold in flat

20 Dec 2017......Francesca McKeith and her children Amelia and Jaycob. The family home in Elmete Hill in Leeds suffers from major damp problems. Picture Scott Merrylees
20 Dec 2017......Francesca McKeith and her children Amelia and Jaycob. The family home in Elmete Hill in Leeds suffers from major damp problems. Picture Scott Merrylees
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A Leeds mother claims mold in her rented flat is affecting the health of her baby son.

Nursery nurse Francesca McKeith, 30, contacted the Yorkshire Evening Post after claiming she had spent at least 12 months trying to solve the problem herself.

20 Dec 2017......Francesca McKeith and her children Amelia and Jaycob. The family home in Elmete Hill in Leeds suffers from major damp problems. Picture Scott Merrylees

20 Dec 2017......Francesca McKeith and her children Amelia and Jaycob. The family home in Elmete Hill in Leeds suffers from major damp problems. Picture Scott Merrylees

She lives in the two-bed flat at Elmete Hill, near Roundhay with her nine month old son, Jaycob and eight-year-old daughter Amelia and says she is spending upwards of £300 a month on heating alone.

She told the YEP: “About a year ago I had the same issue and housing came round and promised me they were going to do x, y and z and they never did anything. I had two managers here who tested all my walls for damp, they said the bathroom is very bad, a lot of condensation in the air which is sticking to the coldest surface.

“I feel depleted by it all, It adds additional work to my life. My son has been in and out of hospital since he was born. He suffers from severe oesophagus disorder, which affects his breathing. To come home and have to clean the walls all the time is demoralising. I have done everything they have asked me to do but I feel like they never get back to you. I am absolutely fed up, I cannot decorate, because what’s the point if it’s going to get ruined.? I don’t buy nice curtains because the damp goes into them, I’ve thrown a few pairs away. It’s costing me a lot of money to heat the flat.”

She added: “This has been going on for a number of years. All I want is a nice place to live in with my children, one which will not affect their health.”

20 Dec 2017......Francesca McKeith and her children Amelia and Jaycob. The family home in Elmete Hill in Leeds suffers from major damp problems. Picture Scott Merrylees

20 Dec 2017......Francesca McKeith and her children Amelia and Jaycob. The family home in Elmete Hill in Leeds suffers from major damp problems. Picture Scott Merrylees

Leeds Yorkshire House Association said they were working with Francesca to find a solution to her problems.

Francesca has also appealed to Leeds City Council to find her a new home and is waiting for energy supplier N-Power to resolve a billing issue resulting from incorrect meter readings.

For full responses from all parties are listed below.

Leeds Yorkshire Housing Association, which manages the flat, said: “Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association is a dynamic, forward-thinking and ambitious housing association. We manage over 1,500 homes located across Leeds, Whitby, Scarborough, Barnsley, Mirfield, Barnoldswick, Earby and Settle; ranging from studio apartments to four bedroom houses suitable for single people, couples and families.

“We are sorry to hear that Francesca McKeith is experiencing problems with her heating system. We are unable to discuss her individual issues and her tenancy due to data protection however we do take this matter very seriously and have been in touch with her to better understand her issues and work with her to find a solution so she can fully enjoy her home.

“The formal complaint was received at the end of November before you contacted us and steps were already being made to investigate and respond to this. Colleagues have visited Francesca at her home and she received a full response a few days ago. We have agreed some remedial works and improvements and given her more advice on measures she can take to reduce condensation in her home. In addition, as part of our ongoing commitment to support our customers to reduce their energy bills, we have referred her to a specialist energy switching company who will support her to ensure she is accessing the best tariff suitable for her on the market.

“Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association installed the Logicore Clear Heat System into 138 homes on the Elmetes Estate in 2015 following extensive consultation with our customers. The system was chosen as an innovative heating solution new to the social housing sector which uses infrared instead of traditional convection. We invested significantly more than the cost for a like for like replacement of traditional storage heaters because the system was expected to deliver both cost savings and have a positive health impact for customers. These are very important priorities for LYHA, especially affordable warmth and tackling any forms of poverty or hardship.

“In 2016 we surveyed our customers who at the time reported high levels of satisfaction with over two thirds of customers indicating, overall, they were either ‘fairly’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the new heating system.

“Over the past two and a half years, LYHA and Logicor [the manufacturer] have provided customers with ongoing support and advice to ensure the optimal benefit is gained from this innovative new system, recognising how it is used is different to traditional storage heating systems.

“We are aware that for a small number of customers there have been some ongoing issues in relation to condensation and system issues that we have been dealing with on a case by case basis.

“However, we have recently seen an increase in customers contacting us about the system, their heating bills and ongoing issues with condensation. This week, our Chief Executive has personally written to all customers that had the Clear Heat system to invite them to let us know whether they have had any problems and setting out plans to comprehensively review the heating issues as a priority in 2018 with inspections, surveys and events to resolve any outstanding issues and ensure this system delivers what we expected it to...

“We are sorry to hear if our customers are dissatisfied with the service they receive or are unhappy with their home. We do listen and take this feedback very seriously and we think our letter to 138 households, and our clear commitment to further actions in 2018, demonstrates this.”

Leeds City Council, which allocates new rented houses according to its housing register, said: “We understand that it can be extremely stressful for those who are experiencing these kinds of issues with their housing situation. We make every effort to ensure that those who experience these difficulties are supported.

“As part of our lettings policy, we assess the circumstances and needs of an applicant before they are allocated a housing priority status.

“Due to demand and availability of properties, it can sometimes be difficult to find suitable properties quickly that meet the required needs for even those with the highest priority on the Housing Register.

“While the housing challenge in Leeds remains extremely testing and significant, we remain absolutely committed to providing meaningful support to those people seeking a council property in the city.

“Although we cannot comment on individual cases, Leeds City Council review our cases as circumstances change to ensure that individuals are awarded the correct priority status. This may sometimes result in an individual’s status being re-assessed.”

N-Power, energy provider for the property, said: “The reason we have been unable to provide her with a bill is because of transposed reads (night and day meter readings mixed up), this led to the account being rebilled and invoices reversed… Once we have exchanged the meter this will resolve her billing issues.

Logicor, who manufactured the heaters installed in the properties, said they were not responsible for the installation of the heaters in Francesca’s flat at the time they were installed - in a statement, they said: ““The heaters, which were installed in 2015, are manufactured by Logicor; who have provided the HA with a report which includes advice that two heaters would benefit from being moved and they have also offered to do this themselves free of charge as a goodwill gesture. In addition, they have also advised the HA about the possibility of looking to move the tenant to a cheaper Logicor Energy tariff to help them with the costs of their overall energy.”