Back in January, we spoke to four people living in properties owned by Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) and suffering from problems with mould.

Six months on, we've returned to them to see if any progress has been made in fixing the issues with their homes.

Here's what we found.

Case study one - Natalie

Natalie lives in Broadwater with her two children, and first reported problems with mould to SBC in 2014.

The Comet: Natalie was calling the council on a weekly basis to try to get her problem addressed.Natalie was calling the council on a weekly basis to try to get her problem addressed. (Image: Natalie (surname withheld))

Her porch roof leaks when it rains, and "thick black mould" has developed. Natalie suffers from long Covid, while both her children are asthmatic, and one has special needs.

When we last spoke, she had previously been visited by a surveyor who “looked and left, never to be seen or heard from again".

Has any progress been made since January?

Natalie told us: “A surveyor visited a week after the Comet story, and they brought a colleague to help clean the mould.

“But until mid-May, I hadn’t seen anyone or heard anything since January.

“I was calling on a weekly basis and was told that it has been passed onto the council’s contractors.

“Somebody from the council assured me, after spending two hours on hold, that all my information was in the hands of Goldsmith & Sons.

“But when I spoke to the contractors a week later, they had never heard of me.

The Comet: Natalie told us that she is extremely cross at the situation.Natalie told us that she is extremely cross at the situation. (Image: Natalie (surname withheld))

“Recently, I also had to raise a level three complaint about a leaking and bowing external roof that leaves puddles of water in my home, and – according to the survey – causes the black mould.

“After nine years of battling the council on this, I am extremely cross.

“The worst thing was the lies from the council, saying that my details have been passed onto their contractors when they haven’t been.

“There was finally some progress last month, with the council agreeing to fund repairs. I’m now waiting for their contractors to come and carry out extensive roof repairs."

Case study two - Anonymous

A woman who preferred to stay anonymous moved into a property in Pin Green in 2021. Shortly afterwards, her daughter was born but in January she was having to take the child elsewhere to be bathed, because of the extent of the mould in her bathroom.

The Comet: The anonymous woman we spoke to in Pin Green told us that her mould problem (pictured here) has now been resolved.The anonymous woman we spoke to in Pin Green told us that her mould problem (pictured here) has now been resolved. (Image: Anonymous)

She has confirmed to us that her problems with mould have since been resolved.

Case study three - Jemima

Like Natalie, Jemima moved into her council-owned house around 2014, and she lives there with her husband and four children, aged five to 13.

They have faced a mould problem for almost the entirety of their time in the house.

The Comet: Jemima has previously had to pay for her hallway to be redecorated - this is what it looked like in November 2020.Jemima has previously had to pay for her hallway to be redecorated - this is what it looked like in November 2020. (Image: Jemima (surname withheld))

Initially, the family cleaned the mould away themselves but, for at least the last four years, Jemima has been reporting the problem to SBC.

Since we spoke to her in January, Jemima has been continually chasing SBC.

Separate inspection teams have visited her from the council, to look at the mould itself, the loft, and the ventilation.

The mould has been cleaned, with anti-mould wallpaper put up. But the mould has simply shifted to another wall.

"95 per cent of it has been physically cleared, but I think it will explode again in winter and we'll be back to square one.

"They haven't solved the issue, just put a plaster over it.

"The workmen have been brilliant, but they can only do what they're told.

"It's been months of constant chasing, backwards and forwards - I'm tired, I'm exhausted.

The Comet: Mould began to appear in Jemima's house during her first winter there.Mould began to appear in Jemima's house during her first winter there. (Image: Jemima (surname withheld))

"When I explain that the extractor fan in the bathroom vents straight into my loft and not outside, and that the felt on the roof tiles is coming off, all I get told is 'stop using the extractor fan'.

"How long are they going to try and mask all the problems, rather than fix the actual problems that are causing the issues?

"Surely it would be cheaper to fix the problems rather than all these temporary fixes that last a few years then we are back to square one.

"It's a bit of a joke ... It baffles me."

Case study four - Richard Barker

We also spoke to another council tenant for this story, Richard Barker. He moved into his Broadwater home 46 years ago with his wife, Jackie, who sadly passed away in 2016.

The Comet: Richard says communication with the council is very difficult.Richard says communication with the council is very difficult. (Image: Richard Barker)

Richard, 68, first reported problems with mould in September 2020. An inspection was conducted by SBC, and a recommendation made that his gutters be re-lined.

After that failed to solve the problem, Richard reported the issue again in November 2021 and June 2022.

Despite ten visits from the council and its contractors since then, the problems continue. He is "concerned" about the impact the mould, located in his bedroom, is having on his health and has discussed the issue with his GP.

Richard believes that SBC are trying to conduct "patchwork" that won't solve the problem. Multiple roofing companies contracted by SBC have visited and said that is where the root of the problem lies.

They've provided SBC with quotes to carry out repair work, but, Richard says, "the council tend to get these quotes and sit on them ... they seem to be penny-pinching".

"The council are aware of what needs to be done but they don't seem to want to do it.

"Communication with them is very difficult. You have to pursue them on everything.

The Comet: Richard first reported problems with mould in 2020.Richard first reported problems with mould in 2020. (Image: Richard Barker)

"Once you log a repair, the onus should be on them to respond to you but it doesn't work that way - you have to keep chasing them on every point.

"The council are discussing incentives for tenants to keep properties in good order.

"They've shown no consideration for people like myself and my wife, that have spent quite a bit of money keeping properties in good order over many years and saved the council money in the long-run.

"But when you ask the council to do repair work, it doesn't happen. It's a bit of an insult, I think."

Richard contacted SBC again in May this year, hearing nothing despite multiple emails. He then contacted Cllr Richard Henry, leader of the council, and eventually heard from the relevant team only after suggesting to a council employee that he was considering legal action against SBC.

Since then, Richard has been visited by a surveyor and is awaiting further action. The surveyor agreed that the roof is a problem.

What are the council saying about the issue?

Responding to this story, Cllr Jeannette Thomas, portfolio holder for housing development and housing, said: “We always try to work closely with our tenants when resolving damp and mould issues, and we’re sorry that these cases haven’t been addressed as efficiently as tenants would like.

"Establishing the root cause plays a huge factor in being able to eliminate the issue from a property and in some cases it’s not always as straight forward as initially thought.

"Unfortunately, we’re all too aware of the health problems that damp and mould cause, and we do aim to carry out site inspections in a timely manner, along with undertaking the necessary works identified to help resolve the problem.  

“Our damp and mould expert is involved in all cases that are reported and we use approved contractors to carry out the works.

"There is also need to raise awareness of the preventative measures that can be taken to stop the spread and minimise the risk of the issue recurring too – more information on these hints and tips can be found on our website."

We were unable to contact one of the residents who spoke to us in January.