Shocking conditions in 'disgusting' Portsmouth apartment block Windsor House leave residents desperate for help

COLLAPSING ceilings, walls blackened by mould, and communal spaces littered with drug needles – residents of a city centre apartment block have revealed the ‘disgusting’ conditions they have endured for years.

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 5:53 pm
Updated Friday, 7th January 2022, 1:51 pm

Residents have turned to The News in a desperate effort to seek help for a raft of serious complaints about the conditions are they have faced in Windsor House in Canal Walk.

The conditions have shocked city councillors, who say the housing is among the worst they have ever seen.

Entering the building poses no trouble as the lock to the main entrance is broken – not that many residents are desperate to get into the apartment block.

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Portsmouth central apartment block, Windsor House in dire state on Wednesday 5 January 2022 Pictured: Leah Hardwick with her daughter, Ayra 5 Picture: Habibur Rahman

Greeting them are walkways littered with rubbish and needles from drug taking, and often drug users and rough sleepers are found sheltering in the communal corridors.

But these areas seem in a good condition compared to the interiors of some flats – with residents enduring leaks and damp leading to horrific black mould growths.

Ray Batson, a HGV driver and a former Royal Marine who served for more than eight years, said his flat seemed ‘fine’ when he moved in three years ago.

Now black mould covers his bedroom wall and part of the room’s ceiling has collapsed.

Portsmouth central apartment block, Windsor House, is in a dire state. Pictured: excessive mould in one of the apartment bedrooms Picture: Habibur Rahman

Pointing to the streaks of mould and damp, the 43-year-old said: ‘I cleared it three days ago. Five minutes after I cleared it, water was running down the wall again.

‘You cannot put anything against that wall.

‘The roof fell down at the end of July. I was sleeping and had my little boy with me – it scared the hell out of me.

‘I told (my letting agent) Leaders about this as soon as it happened.

Mould in Ian Knight's bathroom. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I don’t feel safe here. It’s horrible. In this day and age, we shouldn’t live like this.’

Ray pays £586 a month to live in the flat.

Kim Lidbury, director of property management at Leaders, which manages two flats in the building, said that the firm was sorry to hear about the maintenance issues, and it will continue to work with the building’s owner, Todd Hyatt, to find alternative accommodation for its customers if suitable.

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Ray Batson's flat has been hard hit by mould and damp - causing part of the bedroom ceiling to collapse.

Leah Hardwick, a 30-year-old self-employed cleaner, has also endured leaks, damp, and a collapsed ceiling, causing her to throw out several items of furniture.

The mother-of-one said: ‘It’s in total disrepair this place. Everything needs cleaning.

‘The flats inside are full of damp and mould.

‘We can’t fix it because it’s an outside issue. We desperately need help to fix it.

‘I don’t want to come home half the time. Sometimes I take my little girl out for walks to avoid coming home

‘I got in touch with my letting agent (MYA) last year because my ceiling fell down. They did replace it after several months after they tired to get hold of the freeholder.’

State of hallway where syringes were found. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Leah pays £575 a month in rent – and she thinks the price is completely unfair given the state of the building.

She said: ‘I don’t think I should be paying. But what can you do. To be fair, my landlord is good, but there’s only so much they can do.’

Residents said that a variety of issues – from low income to an inability to find guarantors – means they have struggled to find different accommodation.

And they have been told by their respective landlord firms that the freeholder Mr Hyatt has been contacted regarding repairs.

Resident Ian Knight said he is keen to talk to Mr Hyatt, as he acts as the 38-year-old’s landlord.

Ian, who is registered as disabled after an infection in April required part of his left foot to be amputated, has battled mould and damp for more than six years.

But due to his months-long hospital stays and his on-going mobility issues, the mould has taken over his bathroom.

The resident of more than 12 years said: ‘I have tried to clean it with mould killer but it’s not even a week before it grows back.

‘I’ve never been able to get hold of my landlord – none of the numbers I was provided ever worked.’

Mr Hyatt was approached for comment.

Kings Estates, which manages some of the flats in the block, said that Mr Hyatt is looking to discuss the issues with councillors representing the residents.

Councillors who represent the area said they were shocked by their visits to building – which is among the worst they have seen.

Councillor Kirsty Mellor said: ‘No-one should be made to live like this.

‘We will make it our utmost priority to ensure that the residents at Windsor House are treated with dignity and respect and that their homes are brought up to a habitable standard.’

Fellow Charles Dickens ward representative Councillor Cal Corkery added: ‘What we found when we visited tenants at Windsor House was some of the poorest quality housing we've ever seen.

‘Everybody has the right to a decent, safe home and nobody should have to put up with such neglect.’

Portsmouth City Council has the power to issue notices that demand private landlords make repairs by a certain date – or have the council undertake the work and bill the responsible building owner, according to Cllr Darren Sanders, the council’s lead for housing and preventing homelessness.

Cllr Sanders said: ‘We share the community's concern at conditions at Windsor House.

‘Several private tenants at the building have got in touch with our private sector housing team recently and we've been investigating their cases, liaising with their landlords or the managing agents when necessary.

‘It's become clear that other tenants, although they may not have contacted us, are also experiencing serious problems.

‘We've arranged a visit to the building (on Friday, January 7. Council officers and senior managers will inspect communal areas and a number of flats. We've made appointments to visit more flats next week.’

Now Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan is calling on nationwide changes to protect renters and tenants following several visits to Windsor House.

The MP said: ‘The dire situation residents in Windsor House find themselves in is awful.

‘That's why I continue to take action and have raised my serious concerns at the highest level with the council's chief executive.

‘This week I’ve written to the freeholder directly to urgently address residents’ concerns and am grateful for the efforts of local Labour councillors for prioritising this matter.

‘Government inaction to introduce stronger protections for renters and tenants has allowed this situation to deteriorate from bad to worse. I will continue to work on behalf of all constituents to get the help they need.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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Windsor House in Canal Walk, near the city centre. Picture: Habibur Rahman