Sheffield family stuck in black mould-covered council house which has been falling apart for three years

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A plumber said "animals shouldn't even be living here" when he was called out to the house

In July 2020, Aaron Anson and Tara Terry first called Sheffield City Council about a small leak in their home. Now, they have black mould in all but one room, drain larvae growing behind the mirror, part of the hallway ceiling missing, and water and urine leaking through the electrics, they claim.

They say that since January 2021, the toilet has been leaking water across the floor each time it is flushed. They ripped up a layer of flooring recently, after two weeks of the toilet leaking ‘constantly’, and discovered burn marks from urine coming out of the pipes.

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The family-of-four have to take showers at Aaron’s mum’s house, the other side of the Winn Gardens estate in Middlewood, because they say their own plumbing is unusable.

The bathroom floor has been stained by leaks from the toilet which happen every time it is flushed.The bathroom floor has been stained by leaks from the toilet which happen every time it is flushed.
The bathroom floor has been stained by leaks from the toilet which happen every time it is flushed. | Chloe Aslett

Tara, aged 31, said: "I am so embarrassed. However much I clean, it doesn't look clean, and I feel like I'm doing something wrong. 

"The kids are having to put their shoes on to go to the bathroom in their own house, and while they are doing it, I'm mopping around them. It's not right, they should be able to have privacy."

Aaron and Tara know of empty properties around the estate, but claim they are not being allowed to move.

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Council inspectors have been sent out twice to the property to decide what repair work is required. They couple said the first inspector, in November 2022, simply reported that "some plastering was needed". 

A burst pipe in the entrance hallway caused part of the ceiling to fall through onto Aaron below, who was burned by hot water.A burst pipe in the entrance hallway caused part of the ceiling to fall through onto Aaron below, who was burned by hot water.
A burst pipe in the entrance hallway caused part of the ceiling to fall through onto Aaron below, who was burned by hot water. | Chloe Aslett

Months later, after Aaron had taken time off and lost a day's wages to ensure he was at home, he said a second inspector walked up to the front door, did not knock, and left. Aaron then received a message saying they had come round but he wasn’t in.

He said: "When I’m not at work, I’m on the phone to the council.

"I called to report that inspector, and all I ever get is ‘I understand, I understand’ - no, you don’t understand. They’re not living in it, and they get to go home to their damp-free houses.”

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Floor-to-ceiling black mould in the bathroom has been causing the family health, social and emotional issues.Floor-to-ceiling black mould in the bathroom has been causing the family health, social and emotional issues.
Floor-to-ceiling black mould in the bathroom has been causing the family health, social and emotional issues. | Chloe Aslett

In 2020, the family say the ceiling in the entrance hallway fell through, spilling hot water and burning Aaron’s back.

A plumber who was sent out by the council wanted to replace the whole toilet the following year, Aaron and Tara claim. He told the family ‘animals shouldn’t even be living here’, but was told just to secure the pipe at the back of the toilet with adhesive tape. No other professional repair work has been done on the house, the family state.

Aaron added: "If they came out and looked, we would be on priority [for moving]. But they aren’t coming out.”"

The carpet in the hallway outside of the bathroom is soaked through with leaked water and waste.The carpet in the hallway outside of the bathroom is soaked through with leaked water and waste.
The carpet in the hallway outside of the bathroom is soaked through with leaked water and waste. | Chloe Aslett

The couple’s son, Carter, eight, has asthma and spent three overnight stays in hospital in 2022 due to a tightening chest and pain behind his eyes.

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"He used to be able to run around out there for hours. He’s been out there, what, a few minutes? And already he needs his spray," said Aaron, when Carter came in complaining of chest pain.

Aaron, who himself is on immunosuppressant medication for Crohn’s Disease, added: "The winter is a worry. Having the heating in the house progresses the mould and makes it release the spores. 

Black mould behind the toilet, which has been 'secured' with adhesive tape.Black mould behind the toilet, which has been 'secured' with adhesive tape.
Black mould behind the toilet, which has been 'secured' with adhesive tape. | Chloe Aslett

"It's a Catch 22. We either have Carter cold, which is bad for his chest, or we have it warm in the house and the mould gets even worse."

Tara, who has suffered with mental health issues since she was a child, has started taking medication to manage her symptoms which have worsened due to the house, she explained.

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"My son sat next to me on the bed a few weeks ago and said ‘what are you crying for?’, and I said ‘it’s just this house’. I have been tearing myself away to bed. It hurts me because my kids feel it too," she said.

Tara, outside her and her family's home in Winn Gardens, Middlewood.Tara, outside her and her family's home in Winn Gardens, Middlewood.
Tara, outside her and her family's home in Winn Gardens, Middlewood. | Chloe Aslett

Tara’s 14-year-old daughter does not get to have friends come round or have a "normal" teenager experiences because of the house.

"When she was younger, my daughter would ask why we had the curtains closed all the time. Sometimes I couldn’t even take her to school,” said Tara.

"I am trying my best. I wouldn’t have to have the tablets if I didn’t live in the house."

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Water and waste from the leaks in the bathroom are coming through the light fitting downstairs, with a bowl on the dining table catching the dripping.Water and waste from the leaks in the bathroom are coming through the light fitting downstairs, with a bowl on the dining table catching the dripping.
Water and waste from the leaks in the bathroom are coming through the light fitting downstairs, with a bowl on the dining table catching the dripping. | Chloe Aslett

The bathroom sink no longer drains, and when unblocking is attempted, it fills with black mould. Draining the bath is also steadily slowing down.

"I can't even use my mop to dry the bathroom floor because it's full of water, and I can't put the water anywhere," Tara said.

"I know people who have been moved because of one small leak, so why won't they listen to us? Why won't they fix it?"

The leaks from the bathroom above have begun to bow the ceiling in the dining room, and the size of the visible leak has "tripled" in two weeks.

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The ceiling of the couple's bedroom, now partly repaired, leaked through from the home upstairs onto their bed last year.The ceiling of the couple's bedroom, now partly repaired, leaked through from the home upstairs onto their bed last year.
The ceiling of the couple's bedroom, now partly repaired, leaked through from the home upstairs onto their bed last year. | Chloe Aslett

Aaron said: "Tara is having to be medicated to live in her own home. All because we can't afford to buy, we can’t afford private rent, and they won't move us or fix it.

"I know it sounds bad, but I almost want the ceiling to fall down, so I can tell them ‘this is what you've done’."

Sheffield City Council has been contacted.

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