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Dad lived in his car due to home tap water being ‘contaminated with insects’ for 6 years

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A South London dad claims he was left with insect contaminated water for six years in his home after a council failed to carry out repairs. Barry Barnes said he had to sofa surf with friends and at one point live in his car after Southwark Council delayed fixing pipes at this flat in Camberwell, South London.

The 41-year-old noticed issues with the water in the local authority property soon after moving there in 2015. He began finding insects, rust and metal particles in water from his bathroom and later realised his tap water in the kitchen had the same problems.

Mr Barnes said: “I will have digested all sorts because I didn’t realise the drinking water was affected at first. When I looked closely there were bits of insects, rust, metal particles and limescale. It was awful. I spoke to my neighbours, their water was fine. Mine was coming from a tank in the loft of the flat above. Apparently the lid was off so anything – from rats to insects – could get in there.”

He alerted the council to the problem but was disappointed when he claims they assigned him an ever-changing list of ‘disrepair managers’ – one who he claims never even came to visit the flat. Mr Barnes also complained that some contractors sent by the council turned up at his flat without ID.

In the meantime, Mr Barnes had to shell out cash on hotels and stay with relatives. Despite continuing to pay rent on the Camberwell flat, he was unable to even eat in the property due to the contaminated water.

Mr Barnes said: “I didn’t want anyone to be put out so I paid my way. I lived in my car for a bit, too. I fell into rent arrears because I was spending so much on living elsewhere and eating out. My health took a dive. I gained weight.”

The council eventually carried out repairs to pipework in the property after Mr Barnes contacted housing disrepair solicitors, SJS Legal. The firm took action against Southwark Council, bringing court proceedings and ensuring compensation was paid when repairs were not completed to schedule.

Mr Barnes is now looking forward to spending his first Christmas at home in the property with his kids. But he said there are still other issues with the flat that he wants to sort out when he has the energy to deal with them again.

Mr Barnes added: “The council wouldn’t fit a filter so I did it myself. There’s still some other work that needs doing, but I’ve used my own time and money to fix things.”

‘Social housing in the UK is in dire need of an overhaul’

Stephen Weston, senior solicitor at SJS Legal, said: “Mr Barnes’s situation was shocking but not isolated. Social housing in the UK is in dire need of an overhaul. Personnel and funding should be available to fix problems much quicker. Many tenants find themselves going round in circles, all while their homes fall to pieces around them.”

Councillor Sarah King, Southwark’s cabinet member for council homes, said: “We know that home is at the heart of people’s lives, which is why we make every effort to ensure our tenants’ homes are comfortable, warm, dry, and safe. We are very sorry for the delay in resolving Mr Barnes’ issues and are glad that all the works have been completed and his home is now back in good condition.”

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