Girl, 4, forced to play beside black mould in hell house with dead rats in walls

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Rashid Yousef, 54, and his wife Ashweq said there has been little intervention from Torus, who said it was not aware of “outstanding issues” but has made contact to discuss re-housing

Rashid Yousef in the bathroom covered with damp
Rashid Yousef in the bathroom covered with damp

A family say they have been left in a freezing, barely furnished home coated in black mould with dead rats rotting inside the walls.

Rashid Yousef, 54, and his wife Ashweq say both themselves and their children suffer from breathing problems which doctors say are related to the appalling conditions in their home.

Rashid, who is disabled and recovering from a serious workplace accident, spends his days trapped in the freezing “uninhabitable” Victorian house in Walton, Liverpool, that his GP says is making him more sick, Liverpool Echo reports.

And the house is the responsibility of Torus – one of the largest providers of social housing in the North West.

Rashid Yousef at the house in Walton
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Image:

Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

Rashid and Ashweq said there has been little intervention from Torus, who in turn said it was not aware of “outstanding issues” but has made contact to discuss re-housing the family.

Rashid, a Dutch national of Yemeni descent who came to the UK in 2002, said the property looked in relatively good condition when he moved in around five years ago.

But within months, signs of a serious damp problem began to emerge, which precipitated a steady decline in the state of the house.

He said: “I have to throw the furniture out every six months because of the damp. I have just had to get rid of the sofa.

“This is unbearable.

“Every day we wake up tired because everyone is coughing from the mould. I have to leave the heating on all day but it is freezing because of the damp in the walls.

“I am exhausted, depressed and tired.”

Rashid Yousef in the kitchen with a hole in the ceiling
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Image:

Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

Rashid gave the ECHO a tour of the property, pointing out how the mould had even spread to his jacket as it hung on a coat rack.

Other lows include a leak from the bathroom which has left serious damage in the kitchen, black mould spores coating window frames, wall spaces and ceilings and a distinctive sharp smell immediately present upon entering.

Particularly harrowing was the sight of four-year-old Sara, wearing a Disney princess tiara, playing in rooms with visible outbreaks of black mould on the walls and ceilings.

Rashid said about 18 months ago her breathing became so bad she was taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

His older children, aged between eight and 17, and wife Ashweq have also suffered breathing issues.

While the mould and damp are serious health risks, a regular rat infestation has been particularly distressing for the family with young children.

Rashid Yousef in the kitchen
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Image:

Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

Rashid said his kids were frightened to get up and go to the toilet at night, and the sound of scurrying rodents in the walls is not unusual.

While Liverpool Council has deployed pest control officers at regular intervals to lay poison, the corpses of the rats remain in the wall cavities where they decompose, producing a foul stench.

However responsibility to remove rotting rodents falls on Torus, who the family say have done nothing about it.

Rashid’s neighbour, 33-year-old Mike Ahmed, has been helping the family overcome language barriers and raise their concerns with Torus.

He said: “The mould, damp and rat infestation is unbelievable and has made living in this house like hell.

A hole in the kitchen ceiling leaking from the toilet
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Image:

Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

“It made Rashid’s pain worse; his kids get breathing problems because of that.

“The Council sent someone to kill the rats, but they end up dying inside the cavity walls and are still there until this moment.

“We tried with the housing association and it has been like this for more than one year. They just keep sending surveyors, they say they will repair it but nothing seems to happen.

“I ask for them to be treated fairly as human beings who with their kids have the right to live in safe and healthy environment.”

A spokeswoman for Torus claimed all repair requests had been completed and the company had not been made aware of health problems.

However emails seen by the ECHO show that the family had raised concerns about mould, damp and rat infestations since at least June of 2019 – including some with letters from the family GP attached.

Torus said it was looking at rehousing the family
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Image:

Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

One letter from a local GP practice addressed “to whom it may concern”, seen by the outlet and dated December 3, 2020, states: “The state of the house of the above named patient [Rashid Yousef] is not healthy, it is severely damp and this is affecting his joints and back.

“He is taking medication and doing exercises as instructed by the physiotherapist, despite all that his back and joint pains are not improving and they are worse now that the house is damp and cold.

“His children are affected too and as a result of the state of the house his daughter has breathing problems and they are getting worse, his other daughter has been having chest infections.

“I would be grateful if you could rehouse this patient.”

A spokesman for Torus claims all repair requests have been completed.

Rashid suffered a work injury in 2019
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Image:

Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

The family asked to be rehoused, but were told they should add their names to the Property Pool Plus website, which can involve waits of months or even years.

Rashid’s need for alternate housing is particularly acute due to injuries he suffered in 2019, while working in a Warehouse in Speke, when the truck he was driving was struck by another vehicle.

The impact crushed his back and knee, leaving him needing a cane to walk and in pain “24/7”.

Unable to work, the family relies on Ashwaq’s income from her shop as a store assistant, which leaves Rashid with no-one to help him navigate the stairs.

Even when his family are at home, Rashid said he finds himself isolated as the steep staircase means he finds it easier to remain upstairs so he can use the bathroom.

Liverpool Council has raised concerns
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Image:

Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

A spokesman for Torus said: “All reported works on the property have been carried out and there are currently no outstanding requests for repairs on our system.

“However, we will contact the tenant today and arrange for a surveyor to visit and assess any further issues so we can rectify the situation as soon as possible. We will also review the application request for rehousing and our Housing team will contact the tenant to discuss further.”

While Liverpool Council is not responsible for the condition of the house, the authority was concerned about the conditions endured by the Yousef family.

A spokesman said: “Pest control have attended the property several times over the last few years but no other issues were raised with us by the tenant.

“We are extremely concerned to learn of the conditions in this property and will be in touch with Torus and the tenant to discuss the issues that have been raised.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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