Mum with human waste dripping down kitchen walls wins gruelling legal battle against landlord
Clarion housing association paid Dawn Page £8,000 after a 27-month ordeal over the shocking state of her social home in Mitcham, south London. Now she wants to help other residents take the fight to landlords
It’s been 27 months since Dawn Page first pleaded with landlord Clarion Housing Association to fix disrepair in the two-bedroom flat she shares with 13-year-old daughter Jaycie.
The problems saw the property coated in faeces and infested with flies with the pair forced out into hotels to await repairs that were only completed six weeks ago.
On Thursday (26 October) Page’s legal battle with Clarion came to an end after the housing association settled at Croydon County Court, paying her £8,000 in damages. Clarion has also apologised to Page.
Now the 52 year old has told The Big Issue she has been inspired to help others fix their own homes, much like housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa who supported her in court.
“I just want to give other people hope now that you can do it. Just fight,” said Page. “Because enough times people kept saying, ‘Give up, Dawn. It’s making you ill.’
“I’m relieved, happy. But I was in tears because I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, there’s me so happy that I’m out of it now. How many people are still in it?’ If I can try to sort something out to help people, I’d love to be able to know how to do it. If I can try to do something I really want to because this has empowered me to be honest.”
The Big Issue first covered Page’s story in October 2021 after a video from Tweneboa on social media revealed the shocking state of her kitchen.
She previously said: “I noticed the bathroom towels were starting to brown and then brown stuff was coming through the tiles. Then in the kitchen brown sewage water started dripping down the sides of the cupboards.
“The damp smell – the shit smell – that’s going to take forever to come out. That’s not going to do me or my daughter much good. I can feel it on my chest when I’m there.”
The issue saw Page and her daughter Jaycie moved to a hotel four miles away in Croydon while works were carried out at her home.
Disruption has continued over the two years since then. Page told The Big Issue work to fix the property, where she has lived for almost 25 years, was only recently completed.
In the meantime, the battle to get her home fixed has seen Page battle anxiety and taken its toll on daughter Jaycie, who has autism and ADHD. The teenager is currently out of school, according to Page, after the disruption meant she was often late for school and caused distress.
Former carer Page said she is now satisfied with the conditions in her home.
A Clarion spokesperson said works were carried out to a timescale “agreed with Ms Page’s solicitors”.
“We are sorry that Ms Page felt she needed to pursue a legal claim in relation to the repairs required in her home,” the spokesperson added.
“At court, rather than make a ruling in favour of either party, the judge encouraged both to come to a settlement privately in order to draw a quicker close to the matter. We agreed with Ms Page’s solicitors to pay an amount in damages as compensation for the inconvenience she experienced.”
Activist Tweneboa told The Big Issue he was pleased to see Page’s battle with Clarion come to an end, but the issue has had lasting effects.
The case has inspired a change in the law – known as Awaab’s law – to protect social housing tenants. It also saw a 323% rise in the number of cases where the Housing Ombudsman found severe maladministration – the most serious failings.
Last year the Housing Ombudsman carried out a special report into Clarion and uncovered evidence of wider service failure. Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman, found complaint handling was “slow and ineffective”.
Page said the issue must remain on the agenda to remove the stigma of struggling in social housing.
“It needs a lot more [attention]. It’s getting there, it really is. I think there’s a lot of people who need to not be so embarrassed – like we all were – of letting people see how you’re living,” said Page.
“I’m so glad that my story, Kwajo’s one and other ones now have actually shown people it’s not your fault.
“We really need to expose all of the housing associations that are doing this to people. Us smaller people, the more and more we keeping doing this, hopefully, we will bring them down so they have to start standing up and doing it correctly and not cutting corners.”