A man has had to share his home with his neighbour’s human waste after his flat became flooded with sewage and the council took more than a week to finally clean it up. Rob Escott was horrified when he walked into his council-owned flat in Llanishen, Cardiff, on Monday, June 6, and found the majority of the property flooded with a two-inch deep pool of raw sewage.
The flood was caused by a blocked outside pipe, which led to all of Rob’s neighbours’ waste being pumped into his flat via his toilet. However, while the blockage was cleared by a plumber just a few hours later, it took far longer for the mess to be fully cleaned up, leaving the 47-year-old “living in a nightmare” with his flat still covered in faeces and toilet paper.
Despite endless attempts to get teams from Cardiff Council out to his flat to clean up the mess as soon as possible, Rob claims it was nearly 48 hours after the initial incident that a cleaning team arrived at the property. Even then, he claims the team was unprepared for the job, initially bringing just a single bottle of bleach with them to deep clean the flat.
Read more:Life in the flats where residents claim floors are stained with human faeces and strangers sleep in corridors
Rob claimed that the contracted cleaning team then downed tools after working at the flat for two days and said they would not resume work until the council conducted an inspection of the property. This meant that part of his flat remained contaminated with human waste until the job was finally completed on Tuesday, June 14, more than a week after the flooding occurred, with Rob forced to sleep on his sofa during that time despite being in significant discomfort after breaking his neck and back in an accident.
Incredibly, this is not the first time that his flat has been contaminated with his neighbour’s sewage, with the same issue occurring just a few years ago. However, while Rob says that the council were proactive in solving the problem the first time around, their actions in the last week have been “totally unacceptable”, as he claims he was offered a place in a homeless shelter while the mess was cleaned up, rather than alternative council-owned accommodation.
(Image: Rob Escott)
Rob had discovered the horrific flooding after returning home from dropping his sick dog off at the vets on Monday afternoon. “My mother had stayed at mine the night before ahead of taking my dog down to the vets,” he said. “I was already feeling down when we got back to the flat, and my mother went in first and she immediately said: ‘What the hell is that smell?’ I looked on the floor and there was two inches deep of sewage water all over my flat.”
“My flat was completely flooded,” he added. “It absolutely stank and there was faeces and toilet paper everywhere. I realised quite quickly that the sewage had come in through the toilet. Because of the blockage, every time my neighbours flushed their toilet, it would hit it and then come up through the pipe and out into my bathroom – mine is the only one that is flooded.
“When I saw how far it had spread, I just thought: ‘Oh my God’. It had gone into cupboards, onto the carpet in my bedroom and living room and under the tiles in the bathroom. It was everywhere.” Get the latest news from across Cardiff by signing up to our newsletters.
(Image: Mark Lewis)
The widespread flooding has left much of Rob’s flat needing to be repaired and replaced, with the carpet and bathroom tiles now removed and several items needing to be thrown out. He said: “I’ve got three big cupboards in my hallway and the waste had gone in there. It went under doors, which have all swollen up at the bottom now, so I can’t close them properly anymore. There’s furniture that I’ve had to throw out, as well as clothes and some camera kit.
“I can’t even get into my bedroom because it’s full of stuff I’ve pulled out of the cupboards. Most of that stuff absolutely stinks and you have to sniff it all to work out if it’s been in the sewage or not. I’ve got another big pile of stuff out in the hallway too, and that’s soaking and got flies all around it because of the faeces.”
After discovering the damage, Rob immediately rang the council, who own the flat on Trenchard Drive, to send a plumber to fix the blocked pipe. The plumber arrived just a few hours later, although it wasn’t until 10pm that the blockage was cleared due to the use of high-powered jets.
(Image: Mark Lewis)
However, his ordeal was far from over. While the blockage was now cleared, the horrendous mess remained and while he claims the plumber told him that a cleaning team would attend the property the following day, come Tuesday, nobody had showed, leading him to spend, he claims, “all day” on the phone to the council.
“I was chasing them up the whole day,” he said. “I was desperate to get a cleaning team round as my flat was absolutely disgusting. I rang them 38 times in total, but nothing seemed to make a difference. I started to feel like I was a bit of a joke in the council offices, I was ringing so many times and being told the same stuff. Ultimately, nobody turned up like I was told they would.”
Rob even claims that he was told by a member of the council repair team that it was “our job to clear the blockage, but not to clean up the mess.” After expressing concerns about the impact of the flooding on his health, and requesting alternative accommodation, he also claims that he was offered a place in a homeless shelter while the flat was cleaned.
“You can imagine how bad the smell was after nearly two days,” he said. “It was absolutely disgusting and I said to one of the managers that I couldn’t stay there. It was then that he said he could put me up in a nearby homeless shelter. I couldn’t believe it, I said: ‘You what?’.
“I had a nice flat, it’s not my fault the place has been completely flooded. There are real health concerns and I’m not meant to but to be offered a place in a homeless shelter was just unacceptable. I couldn’t believe what I was being told.”
(Image: Mark Lewis)
(Image: Rob Escott)
After he made a formal complaint to the council, a cleaning team eventually arrived at Rob’s flat on Wednesday, 48 hours after the flooding was discovered. However, there were to be even more issues, as he claimed the team greatly underestimated the size of the task at hand.
“They turned up with this little 250ml bottle of Dettol,” he claimed. “I used to throw a whole one of them in the bath after a rugby game. But they turned up to clean the flat with just that. From what they were saying, I think that they thought I had pooed on the floor in my bathroom and they were there to clean that up.
“I looked at the bottle and thought, that’s not going to do the job and it certainly didn’t. When they went home, the bathroom still absolutely stank, because the sewage water had gone all down the cracks in the tiles. It just was never going to cut it, it was ridiculous.”
The team then came back the next day with industrial cleaning products. However, that afternoon, Rob said the team “downed tools” as they had only been contracted to work at the flat for two days, despite some areas of the flat still being completely contaminated by the sewage.
“They were just over halfway through the cleaning when their boss rang them at around 4pm and told them to stop working,” he said, claiming: “They said they wouldn’t resume work until the council conducted an inspection of the flat, but they refused to send one, saying that they considered the job completed.
“It really felt completely hopeless at that stage. It was a Friday afternoon by then and I knew that it wouldn’t get sorted until the next week. It just felt like there was no concern or urgency to get it sorted.”
(Image: Mark Lewis)
A council representative did eventually visit the flat on Monday, June 13, at which point Rob had been living in the contaminated flat for a week. While the cleaning was eventually finished on the Tuesday, with the lino in the bathroom finally removed, he has been left appalled by his treatment at the hands of the council and says he plans to take legal action.
“The whole ordeal has been horrendous,” he said. “I’m sleeping on my sofa in the front room, which is terrible for me as I broke my back and neck in an accident I had years ago, so it’s really important I have somewhere comfortable to sleep. But it’s still better than being put into a homeless shelter.
“This flooding has happened before, but the first time the council were great, they dealt with it quickly and there was clear communication from them. That incident wasn’t that major, but now I’ve had a major flood, nobody wants to know.
“There has been no urgency and no communication, I had to ring them nearly 40 times to get an answer,” he added. “I’ve been living surrounded by human waste and it’s taken over a week to sort it. However you look at it, that’s just not good enough.”
A Cardiff council spokesperson said: “A plumber from our Responsive Repairs Unit attended the property within a few hours of the tenant’s out of hours emergency call on Monday June 6 and carried out works late into the evening to clear the toilet blockage, clean up waste water and disinfect the bathroom. Mr Escott requested that the damaged floor coverings were not removed at that time.
“Further cleaning took place to completion on Wednesday June 8 and Thursday June 9 once Mr Escott confirmed the carpets could be removed. A move to an alternative property was offered, but that was initially declined by Mr Escott. At this point Mr Escott requested that a tenancy officer visit to inspect the property and works carried out so far.
“An inspection took place on Monday June 13 when it was agreed that carpets and flooring should be replaced, and a replacement toilet and pipework boxing be installed. Works have already started and are due to complete by the end of this week, subject to the availability of parts and fittings and no further repair issues arising.
“Our tenancy management team has been in close contact with Mr Escott throughout this time, ensuring he has been kept aware of all the measures being taken to resolve the matter.”