NHS worker’s ‘hell’ in mould-infested flat where ‘mushroom grew from ceiling’

An NHS worker living in a mould-infested flat says a mushroom grew from the ceiling and and the smell is so musty she is left “gasping for fresh air”.

Mum Larisa Orlova, who is registered disabled and has fibromyalgia, claims her health has suffered during the two years in her “own horror movie” where thick black mould covers the walls and ceilings.

The 49-year-old emergency care nursing assistant claims her landlord, PA Housing, left her living in “hazardous conditions” all that time before it acknowledged the problem and began carrying out works at the home in Hersham, Surrey.

But the housing company claimed to SurreyLive that contractors had issues accessing the property and it wasn’t aware of an issue with a leaking water tank until September last year.

Larisa felt PA Housing was “dismissive” and reluctant to resolve the problem, claiming it first began in 2018, and said her son spent weeks scrubbing surfaces but nothing seemed to work.

She said: “My health has no meaning to my landlord, [leaving] me to live in hazardous living conditions for over two years.

“Since last year, after having to breathe the toxic, musty air, I started experiencing severe headaches and sickness. I need to recuperate after working long shifts in order to do my job properly.

“How can I look after patients when I am not well myself? I could not sleep for three months last year due to the noise of the water dripping from the ceiling [from the leaking water tank].”

Larisa claims she tried to report the problem to PA Housing via her online account in 2018.

She said she received a message every time she tried to report it, telling her: “This is your responsibility. As a tenant, you are responsible for adequate heating and ventilation of your home.”

She claims she was offered the same advice when she called.

Larisa said she bought a dehumidifier, which made her electricity bills more expensive, and was finally able to report the mould issue.

She claims a surveyor came and installed an extractor fan was installed in the bathroom, but the problem continued.

Larisa said: “The smell is musty and I am gasping for fresh air. You feel like you need fresh air and fresh oxygen because the air is filled with fungi spores.”

She allegedly found woodworms – larvae of wood-boring beetles – in the bathroom in the summer of 2019.

Larisa claims she has been forced to throw out clothes and a laptop that had mould growing on them.

It is said that the humidity in the property reached 87 per cent at one point.

The damp issue was exacerbated by a leaking tank that sent water “pouring from the ceiling” in September last year, Larisa claims.

She claims PA Housing took months to fix the leak.

Larisa said: ” Every single night I could hear the water dripping in the house. I couldn’t sleep.

“I told PA Housing that I couldn’t sleep and I feel exhausted and I am supposed to work 12-hour shifts. [I said] ‘please consider my disability, my work and my health’.

“I am helping everyone from across the country with my job, so I want to be treated in the same way.”

She added: “Since then, my daughter’s bedroom has not been in use. If I open the door and I smell the mould, I immediately start vomiting and retching.”

She claims PA Housing tried to convince her the mould was not an emergency.

PA Housing claims there were issues accessing the property when contracted visited the flat to carry out repairs.

Larisa has sought legal advice and is now being helped by a solicitor.

She asked her local MP, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, whether her concerns can be passed on to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

She said: “Would Mr Johnson be happy if he knew that the health professionals who were looking after him last year in the hospital have been in a living situation like mine?

“Does Mr Johnson think that the clapping for NHS workers is enough?”

Mr Raab said: “I was troubled to hear about the situation that Ms Orlova described to me. I have taken up her concerns with PA Housing, and I will be pressing to get it fixed as soon as possible.”

Larisa is staying in a hotel while works are carried out. A PA Housing spokesperson said they are due to be completed this week.

The spokesperson said: “We’re very sorry that our customer felt she needed to contact SurreyLive about the work we have been doing in her home.

“A water tank leak reported in late September 2020 caused damage to her home. We stopped the leak shortly after it was reported and provided our customer with a dehumidifier to help dry out the property.

“A surveyor visited to assess the damage caused by the leak, including the mould that had formed on the wet walls, and found that we needed to renew the water tank and the ceilings, replaster walls, and retile the bathroom.

“Unfortunately, the work has taken longer than expected due to some difficulties gaining access to the property, and delays with progressing the work as quickly as we would have liked due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“However, it is all due to be completed this week, with PA Housing having organised for our customer to spend two weeks in a hotel while it was carried out.

“We have maintained contact with our customer and very much hope she is happy with the work that has been done in her home.”