South London mum-of-three Courtney Ricketts avoids spending time in her rat-infested flat as much as she can, crying almost every day from the stress of raising her children in a home they are afraid to sleep. Courtney, 24, lived in the flat in Denmark Gardens, Carshalton, for two years and first noticed the rats a year ago when she was pregnant with her youngest son.
Courtney is the mother of three children, aged five, four and seven months, who are afraid to live in the same house as the rats they hear scurrying on the floorboards. Courtney has trouble sleeping at night and constantly checks on her baby whenever he makes noise because she fears he might be bitten by one of the rodents.
One morning she checked her baby boy in his bed and found a rat right next to his head with rat droppings in the bed he was sleeping in. She contacted Sutton Housing Partnership for help, but in correspondence from them she was told they “had no responsibility for dealing with pests.”
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Courtney told MyLondon: “I can’t stop crying every night and I can’t sleep – it’s awful. During the day I can’t be home because I know rats are there. We can’t even invite people to be in the house with us.
“We were actually supposed to have a party here in the apartment for my son, it’s his birthday in March and we had to cancel because I’m afraid someone is using the toilet or going to the kitchen and ‘he sees a rat and it would make me look dirty. I’m 100% coming to the breaking point, it’s been disgusting, normally I have a lot of patience but lately I’m just breaking everything.
The past year for Courtney has been emotionally draining, and it’s also taken a toll on her finances. Courtney admitted she paid around £250 worth of rat traps as well as the need to replace the food eaten by the rats and clothes, such as a new £60 jumper she got for her birthday, often ends up with holes and covered in rat droppings.
Her two oldest children are currently sharing the top bunk of their bunk bed as neither wants to be near the floor where the rats are. Her eldest son, who is only five, went to the bathroom where he spotted three of the large rats, and has since been too scared to move around the flat on his own.
She said: “I hate putting my kids to bed, the two older ones are in a bunk bed and they’re sharing the top bunk because obviously there are rats near the floor, and my youngest is in a bed , i constantly get up in the night for any screams or noises he makes to check he is ok he also has a little cough at the moment and for me personally i think it is related to the situation rats and what they bring into our home.”
When the family sees rats in the house, it’s usually three or four at a time. Courtney said that once she found four of them in the bathroom and three more in the kitchen at the same time, and their constant presence in the house is not helped by the fact that Courtney also deals with the problems of mold on his property.
The family lives in an apartment tucked away in a block shared with five other properties. His upstairs neighbors have also complained of rats and they too have a young family.
During the lockdown, Courtney said drainage work carried out by the property manager meant the drain cover remained open for six weeks, by which time she believes the rats found the opportunity to enter the building. Courtney often hears the rats tapping and biting inside the walls and floors of the apartment.
Courtney even suggested moving out of her current apartment to provide her family with better living conditions. She said: “I said move me and my kids to another two bedroom property, it doesn’t have to be a mansion, it just needs no rats I’m not asking for an extra bedroom or a house with a garden, I’m asking for the bare minimum: no rats in my house and near my young children.”
The impact on Courtney’s children affects her mental state. The mum added: “My eldest son has ADHD and he says his Nanna’s house is safer than ours, he often doesn’t want to come home and he’s scared. He woke me up in the middle of at night and said ‘mum I’m ‘scared’ because the rats might get it.
“Their home should be a place where they can feel safe and comfortable, but it seems they can’t even feel comfortable in their own home because of rats. It affects all of our states. mentally, I’m constantly crying over this situation. I’m afraid the rats are chewing something and starting a fire in my house while my kids and I are sleeping.”
Courtney is out of options on what she can do to make her family home safe for her children and free of rodents that keep her awake at night. She even considered buying a cat herself in an attempt to get rid of the rats, or at least keep them away from her property.
She said if something doesn’t change soon the family will have to look for private accommodation, but “I can’t afford it, but I can’t keep my family in a house they don’t feel safe in. I will take all the help I can get at a moment’s notice to help my children sleep better and live healthier lives.
“I told my property manager I would take the matter to court and they said they would contact a pest control company, but they still haven’t. I am told what I want to hear, but then there’s no follow-up or action.”
A spokesperson for Sutton Housing Partnership told MyLondon: ‘We are very sorry that the resident has a continuing problem with rats in her home and are working with her to resolve this issue. Our repair team has visited the property regularly since first reporting the issue and has closed all access points. We also now provide free bait boxes”.
Trainee journalist – LGBT+ specialist. Previously worked for Daily Star, The Sun, Brixton Blog and South West Londoner.
Three stories written this month include an in-depth interview with LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell ahead of the 50th anniversary of UK Gay Pride, an interview with a former lieutenant commander who had to keep his sexuality a secret in the armed forces for 20 years who lost his partner to AIDS two days before leaving the Navy and a conversation with the founder of The Gay Men’s Dance Company which offers vocational training, pole dancing and a dance class in heels.
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