As part of our Homes for Health collaboration, Augustina, a member of CAHN in Manchester, speaks about the poor conditions of her previous home, the lack of repairs from her landlord and how her children's physical and mental heath was affected.

picture for projectStory: Caribbean and African Health Network - 'Tenants don't get what they deserve'

People’s Health Trust’s Homes for Health is a collaboration between the Trust and experts from housing, community, and racial justice civil society organisations responding to the growing problem of unfit private and social rented homes and their effects on tenants’ physical and mental health. As part of Homes for Health, the Trust has called for sustainable funding for local authority housing enforcement. At the moment tenants have to bear the risk of enforcing housing and health regulations.

One Homes for Health project is led by Caribbean and African Health Network (CAHN) based in Manchester. Their member, Augustina, speaks about the poor condition of her previous home, the lack of repairs from the landlord and how her children’s physical and mental health was affected.

“My family and I lived in Manchester for 13 years. The problem with our landlord then was that he wasn’t on top of repairs. If there was a repair that needed to be done, he did it himself, and if he was not available he would leave it for weeks, if not months.

He couldn’t be relied on. If there was an emergency, he would not come out, which is particularly hard considering I have children. If we did get him to come and look at whatever the problem was, he would actually look at some of the children, point at them and say ‘I think this is your fault. I think you did that thing. You caused that problem.’ That intimidates the children and is really bad.

We had mice that would go into the children’s bedrooms. Upstairs at night, they couldn’t sleep. Sometimes you would be in the lounge just watching TV and you’d see a mouse run across the room. And my children were petrified. They had sleepless nights because there were mice running around their room at night.

The kitchen floors were really bad. They were wooden floors and they were falling apart. You could see the cracks and you had pests coming through from the gaps. It wasn’t safe at all. At the time I had a one-year old baby and she would be crawling around these horrible floors.

My daughter had serious asthma. The mould in our house was bad, especially in the bathroom the mould wouldn’t stop. I would use bleach to clean it up and the smell is really harsh but I had to use it regularly to try to get rid of some of the mould.

Since we moved house she has grown out of her asthma problem and things are a lot less serious.

I did tell the landlord about the mould and that it affected my daughter’s asthma and all he said was ‘clean it yourself.’ He didn’t do anything about it at all.

He just thought that if we cleaned the house up, made it tidier, it would make the problems go away. So I had to buy bleach and brushes and clean the walls and the ceilings all the time. Bleach leaves a strong smell which did not help with my child’s asthma. It was affecting her breathing. So I had to open all the windows. Normally I would clean when the kids were at school, open all the windows, and by the time they got home the smell has gone down. It was very difficult.

It affected my mental health a great deal. When people say they wanted to visit your home it is embarrassing. I would turn them down. It was isolating.

When you have young children and you’ve lived in a place for almost thirteen years, it’s so hard to pick up and just move somewhere else. Sometimes it felt like the landlord decided to frustrate us in the hope we would give up on trying to get the repairs we needed and say, ok I’m not living here anymore. It was so difficult because our children went to school nearby and had made friends. We worked nearby too and had our friends around us, our neighbours. It was really hard to give in and move. We did move in the end and it is still difficult. The community you build up is so important for us and for the kids.

Tenants don’t get what they deserve, what they pay for every month.


Member of Caribbean and African Health Network

However, I feel much happier now that we have moved. The first night when we came to our new place, the children said, oh what a peaceful night and what a difference from our old house, because they had become so used to hearing the mice squeaking at night. They were petrified that the mice might creep into their beds. Each bedtime was a nightmare because they were so scared. It was affecting their sleep, their school.

Our landlord now is on top of everything. They make repairs right away and respond to us. They do everything. There are good landlords out there but lots of them are not on top of repairs. I know this from my friends and my family who still rent in the area I used to live in. Too many of them.

Personally, I have a sense of relief about being out of the situation with my old house, but I’m also worried about friends and family who are going through what I went through. They don’t know who to turn to, where to report their housing conditions, how to deal with it. Tenants don’t get what they deserve, what they pay for every month.

When you are coming to the UK from another country you don’t really qualify for a lot of things. It takes a while to qualify to buy a house. And as you rent and get a landlord and the job that you’re doing is near where you live, you become connected and you want to stay in that community. But in our community you don’t know who to turn to. We know who our landlords are and that’s it. The Black and Minority Ethnic community needs more information for us to know who to turn to when our homes are not at the condition required.

If I was a white tenant or an English tenant born and bred here I don’t think my landlord would treat me the way he did. Because I am originally from a foreign country, I think he thought he could treat me however he wanted. I don’t know how to describe it, we are more taken advantage of by most landlords because they know we are new in the system and don’t know who to turn to, and they think they can treat us however they want and get away with it. We have no one to report it to. Who are we going to report it to?”

In our next piece, Augustina explains how council enforcement of housing standards forced her landlord to act on repairs.

Read more about People’s Health Trust’s Homes for Health campaign.


Join our email newsletter and stay up to date with our latest funding announcements and policy updates.