'I fear my children could die due to mould in home'
A father has said he fears his children could die because of severe damp and mould in their privately-rented home.
Ahmed Abu Ali said his five-year-old daughter often struggled to breathe at night in their house in Bolton, Greater Manchester, which has also had rats.
An independent surveyor's report found the property was "in some respects unfit for habitation".
The landlord said it was "important to remember that there are two sides to every story".
The lettings agency has not responded to the BBC's repeated requests for information.
Mr Ali, 44, said his four children were constantly ill due to the state of the home, in particular his daughter Iftuu, who has Down's syndrome.
"I'm crazy worried," he told BBC North West Tonight as he showed them around the bedroom where the youngest children sleep.
One of the walls is black with mould, which is also around the windrow frame and along the ceiling.
"I'm feeling my children could die. My children need help."
Mr Ali said every time he tried to clean the mould, it would quickly return and that the flooring in the family's living room was rotten.
He said rats had been getting into the house through the hole in the floor, eating the furniture and running through the bedrooms at night.
"This home is not good for children," said their mother Belaynash Banta, 35.
"The rats come and none of the children are sleeping. UK government, please help me."
In a doctor's letter, seen by the BBC, a GP said Iftuu had been having "recurrent respiratory tract infections which could be linked to the poor housing condition that she currently lives in".
"This will impact on the health of all the occupants of the house, especially Iftuu, who is especially at risk due to her underlying condition," the letter added.
In another letter from the GP surgery, it said: "I would be grateful if you would prioritise this family for relocation to a more suitable property."
Iftuu's paediatric consultant has also written to support their application to be rehoused.
The family have been assisted by the Bury and Bolton Citizens Advice Bureau, who commissioned an independent surveyor's report in April 2022.
Inspectors found "severe diffuse mould growth aspergillus niger" in the bedroom where the two youngest children sleep.
Severe mould was also found in the bathroom and severe rising dampness in the living room.
"The appearance of mould is noted to be prejudicial to the health of the occupants," the report added.
But four months on, the family are still living in the same conditions.
The BBC has seen documents that show the landlord has previously treated the mould and made repairs, including to the kitchen and installing some new carpets.
He has claimed the family have, on several occasions, refused entry to both himself and workmen.
The family said it was advised by lawyers not to let anyone in until the surveyor had visited.
The landlord said: "At this time, I am not able to comment on the specifics of the alleged issues at the property due to ongoing litigation.
"However, speaking generally, it is important to remember that there are two sides to every story such as this one.
"A landlord is only able to act upon the items for which they are liable to repair, and which have been reported to them.
"No matter the quality of the ventilation, heating and insulation media in a property, if the tenant fails to make proper use of those installations, there will always be a risk of mould and mildew growth.
"Similarly, if the lifestyle of the tenants is one which allows waste to accumulate within a property, there will be a risk of infestation and vermin.
"If such issues are present at a property, the landlord must not automatically be attributed with the blame, despite how easy and popular such an trial by public opinion is, and an appropriate balance on the facts must be made."
In July, new rules to improve social housing conditions after the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak became law.
The toddler died in 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home in Rochdale.
While Awaab's Law has now been written into the statute book to compel social housing landlords to inspect and repair damp and mould, this does not cover the private rental sector.
There have been calls from MPs to extend this protection but the government said it had given councils strong enforcement powers.
A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: "Everyone has the right to a safe home, and we will always take action whenever the health of tenants are at risk.
"Our Housing Standards team have been involved with this case, working with other agencies, the landlord, and the tenants to find a permanent resolution to the mould problem.
"We have previously supported the landlord to carry out a number of repairs, but further work is needed.
"However, there have been a number of barriers to work progressing on a timely schedule, and this has resulted in the problems getting worse."
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