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‘It is really stressing me’: woman raising toddler in cold, mouldy apartment seeks a way out

Andhile Ndhlovu took a small apartment in Palmerstown when pregnant. Then things started to go wrong

A mother of an 18-month-old boy says she fears for his safety in the damp, cold and mould-infested bedsit where they live.

Andile Ndhlovu, who was recently diagnosed with latent tuberculosis, is appealing to either, or both, Dublin City Council (DCC) and South Dublin County Council (SDCC) to help her find alternative accommodation.

Though on the city council’s social housing list she and baby Timmy live in a tiny, first-floor apartment in Palmerstown – within SDCC’s jurisdiction. Originally from Zimbabwe she was recognised as a refugee in October 2020.

“When I was pregnant I was sharing with two other girls. I was still in direct provision. It was really hard,” says Ms Ndhlovu. “I was trying to get a house and Depaul [housing charity] were helping me. They encouraged me to take this place. They said I could get somewhere else when the baby was born, so I took it in April 2022.”


The apartment is one of three in a narrow extension to a main house, up a flight of stairs, with apartments above and below. Its main living area – kitchen and sitting – is about the width of a hallway. A shower, sink and toilet under the stairs are adjacent to a cramped bedroom with a small double bed which Andile and Timmy share, and space for a chest of drawers.

Black mould is visible around windowsills and ceilings throughout. A leak, apparently from the shower, leaves the bedroom carpet and walls wet. Tiles on the bathroom floor lift easily showing wet floorboards. The sealant between the shower base and wall is damaged. There is neither heating nor hot running water, though the electric shower is hot.

On a cold day last week she had two electric heaters, bought in a second-hand shop, on. She tries to limit her spend on the pre-electricity meter to €50 a week. “But €50 never lasts,” she says.

She worries about Timmy, who is wearing tights and socks under his dungarees when The Irish Times visits. She was diagnosed with latent TB in St James’s Hospital and Timmy coughs frequently. “I hear a child died because of mould in England, so it is really, really stressing me,” she says, referring to the case of Awaab Ishak (2) who died in 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould at his Rochdale home.

Ms Ndhlovu, who works part-time as a care assistant, gets the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) towards the €1,000 monthly rent.

When Timmy was born the space “was okay”. She first noticed the leak from the bathroom in September 2022 and mould that winter. “When Timmy started crawling I put blankets on the floor.” Four months after she contacted the landlord – a local property owner Paul Farrell – asking that the leak be addressed; the shower tray was resealed in March 2023.

In summer 2023 she says the shower stopped working altogether. She shows texts to Mr Farrell asking that he get it repaired, and no response. After six weeks with no shower she paid an electrician €70 to repair it. She shows a Revolut transfer on September 28th for €70.

Mr Farrell, when contacted, said he had not heard from Ms Ndhlovu in several months and was not aware of the leak or lack of heating and hot water. He said he believed the leak had been repaired and was “shocked” to hear it had recurred.

He agreed the dwelling was unsuitable for a mother and baby adding he had not known she was pregnant when he let her the apartment. He visited her over the weekend and committed to addressing all issues. He told The Irish Times it was his priority to ensure the apartment was “safe for the baby”, but reiterated his view Ms Ndhlovu needed a larger home.

Ms Ndhlovu said she had lodged a dispute with the Residential Tenancies Board which has been allocated a case number and was awaiting mediation. On December 22nd an inspection of the dwelling was conducted by an SDCC environmental health officer (EHO), after Ms Ndhlovu complained about conditions.

She has unsuccessfully looked for alternative housing within the HAP limit of €1,250 a month in Dublin. She would move out of Dublin but would lose her support network who help with childcare. Timmy’s father, who lives in Co Tipperary, helps when he visits.

Letters from Timmy’s medical social worker in Temple Street children’s hospital and from Tusla, to Dublin City Council, detail concerns for his health and support her application for more suitable housing.

“The situation I am in is really draining me,” she says. “Sometimes I blame myself, even wish I had not had my baby because I cannot care for him properly.”

Neither DCC nor SDCC would comment on an individual case. DCC said where it paid HAP in respect of a tenancy outside its area, the relevant local authority was responsible for inspections and standards. A spokesman for SDCC said it inspected 1,656 HAP properties in 2023, of which 448 were by environmental health officers who can issue enforcement orders where breaches are found.

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Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times