South London granddad 'feels unsafe' in new-build home over fears it's being affected by 'toxic' chemical

By Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter

16th Apr 2024 | Local News

Steven O’Neill, 49 (Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga)
Steven O’Neill, 49 (Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

A South London grandad has claimed he does not 'feel safe' in his new-build home as he is concerned staining that has appeared on the kitchen ceiling and wall is 'chemical'.

Steven O'Neill, 49, said he and his eight-year-old grandson have been staying at relatives' homes for days at a time as they often feel unwell in the Kingston property, which was built by developer Fairview New Homes and managed by PA Housing.

Mr O'Neill told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) the home was 'beautiful' when they moved in at the end of March last year.

He said: "We were really, really chuffed with it. It looked amazing. It still does, in a way, but it only [took] less than a couple of weeks before I realised something wasn't right. I started… [getting] horrendous, nasty headaches, my eyes were burning and throat and nose were burning when we were in the property for any amount of time. Not just me either, the little one was saying he was getting headaches and stuff like that."

Mr O'Neill and his grandson, who he has guardianship over, have been staying with relatives for days at a time since April last year as he is concerned the property is being affected by a 'toxic' chemical of an unknown nature due to the physical symptoms they have experienced. He claimed he often hears liquid 'rushing' behind some of the walls, which he said can be 'absolutely relentless'.

Mr O'Neill said he has battled with PA and Fairview for a thorough investigation into the issues since first reporting his concerns in April last year.

But he said he feels they have not properly investigated the issues, including not cutting holes in the ceiling and walls to fully assess any damage behind.

He has also contacted Woodford, which is the plumbing company that helped with the construction of the property.

PA Housing said issues experienced by Mr O'Neill are due to 'defects' from an upstairs flat, including a previous leak that it has resolved.

The housing association added it was made aware of another leak in March and it will work with Mr O'Neill to carry out any works needed as a result of 'water ingress'.

But Mr O'Neill said he remains concerned the issues are due to a 'chemical' of an unknown nature. Stains began to appear on the ceiling and a wall in the kitchen in October, and he told the LDRS he expects more damage to become visible as he believes the issues are ongoing.

It comes four years after Mr O'Neill and his grandson moved out of their previous Kingston Council property after enduring 'unbearable' conditions, he previously told the LDRS, before it was declared uninhabitable from suspected cocaine contamination from another flat. Aspen Environmental inspected the property in 2022 and said in a report wiping tests had indicated there was 'cocaine in various places' in the flat. The report concluded it was 'not fit for human habitation' due to its 'state with cocaine and unknown possible fillers present'.

Mr O'Neill described the difficulties of moving into a new home after experiencing such an ordeal, to then encounter new issues in less than two weeks. He added he and his grandson 'don't feel safe in the property' and it is 'absolutely no way to live'.

The grandad told the LDRS he feels stuck over what to do as he does not want to stay in the property under the conditions he claimed he is facing, but he does not want another family to deal with the issues if he exchanges it on HomeSwapper.

He said: "If we move, someone else is going to be in that same position as us. Someone might be thinking… [it's] a beautiful place and all that, especially if someone comes and paints over all that staining to the walls and ceiling and stuff, and it's just going to be exactly the same. Whoever moves in there is going to be experiencing exactly the same as us."

Robert Green, director of building and construction at PA Housing, said: "We are sorry for the time it has taken to resolve the defects from the upstairs flat affecting Mr O'Neill's home, and the stress and inconvenience it has caused.

"A previous leak caused by the bath was resolved, but a further leak was reported to us on March 29 involving the toilet.

"To ensure we get to the bottom of the issue, we arranged with Mr O'Neill and the resident living above him for a surveyor from PA Housing and a plumber from the original developer to visit both homes on April 9. Once the leak has been identified and repaired, we will work with Mr O'Neill to action any remedial work needed as a result of the water ingress."

On the noise, Mr Green added: "The soil stack for the building runs through one of the bedrooms in Mr O'Neill's home, which we believe is the water-related noise he can hear. While there have been no problems concerning leaks with this pipe, when our team attend next week, they will also look at the soil stack to see what can be done to further reduce the sound."

A Woodford spokesperson added: "Here at Woodford, customer complaints are taken very seriously and always treated with the upmost importance. We ensure all complaints are investigated in a timely and proactive manner.

"Regarding the incident in question, visits to the property have been carried out to ascertain the cause of the issues. Our findings have been reported to Fairview, who are currently managing the remedial works.

"Once we have confirmation of the works required to be completed, we will be able to provide the tenant with a timescale to resolve this matter."

Fairview declined to comment.

     

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