Mum: ‘Damp home was making my son ill’

Michelle Pilling is angry after she had to leave her Calico home which was riddled with damp.
Michelle Pilling is angry after she had to leave her Calico home which was riddled with damp.

A Burnley mother says she was forced to leave her damp home after her asthmatic son suffered more than a dozen chest infections.

Michelle Pilling said her 15-year-old son, who has autism, kept falling in ill in the Harold Avenue property which she said was riddled with damp.

The G4S employee blamed her family’s health problems on black mould and damp which she said was affecting almost every room.

She said: “My son was on his 15th chest infection. We kept going to the doctors. He couldn’t breathe because of the spores in the house.

“The antibiotics were not working properly because the air was so polluted with spores and mould.” Michelle said she reported the damp problem to Calico two years after she moved into the house in 2006 but the landlord blamed it on condensation.

But the problem got so bad that wallpaper would not stick to the walls, water was dripping through the stairs and the family had to throw out hundreds of pounds worth of mould-covered clothes and furniture.

Michelle said: “I had around 15 different inspectors come to look at the house. One even said ‘I don’t know how you’re living in this house.’

“I complained to Calico and they said the solution was to move out while work was done – but at my expense.

“They wanted me to up sticks, move everything into storage, put the dog in kennels at huge expense and live elsewhere while they did the work.

“I have got an autistic child and he does not like change. I had had enough.”

Eventually Michelle moved out – having to borrow money to move in with a private landlord in the Coal Clough area of town.

“It took a lot for us to move because my son is autistic. But since we moved out the asthma has got a lot better

“I am not the only one – both my old neighbours had the same problem. Harold Avenue is terrible.

“People should not have to live in these conditions. They should treat people with respect and make sure the houses are not damp.”

Adele Livesey, Calico’s Head of Investment, said: “Wherever properties need work, we’re committed to ensuring this is done. We carried out damp-related works to more than 200 homes last year, but it’s important customers are aware that, when major damp works are required, there is no overnight fix.”

The Calico official claimed Ms Pilling had had “intermittent” problems with condensation since she moved in, and first reported structural damp downstairs in 2012.

She continued: “In the 20 months since then, we have made numerous attempts to carry out the works necessary to fix the structural damp issues, and have even offered to rehouse Ms Pilling and support her family throughout, but she has refused us access to do this and has asked that we place the works on hold instead.

“We’re aware damp and condensation is an issue that is on the rise across the country and hitting people on low incomes particularly hard.

“More and more, we are hearing tenants say they cannot afford to heat their homes adequately, but we want anyone who is worried about these issues to know that they should speak to us directly, as support is often available.”