Neighbours living on an estate in Cricklewood say “out-of-control” fly-tipping has left them with a “major vermin problem”.

Residents of Handley Grove claim illegally dumped rubbish can be left for weeks before being cleared, attracting rats and mice that have infested flats.

The neighbours say housing association Network Homes has not done enough to tackle the fly-tipping problem after it cut back on cleaning services, and in some cases it had told residents it was their responsibility to call pest control.

Nicola Mann, who lives in Handley Grove, said residents “started getting mice around the time that they [Network] cut back our cleaning services in 2007”, and she had been reporting fly-tipping problems since 2013.

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“It has now got out of control, and we now have a major vermin problem,” she added.

“In 2021, they officially acknowledged that we had rats in the structure of our block of flats, but in my opinion they have done nothing to make this a priority.”

Nicola said one neighbour told her a rat “came in from behind one of the pipes” while her son was in the bathroom. “It is absolutely appalling,” she added.

Network called out a pest control team to block up holes in the brickwork, but Nicola said the grates they installed came loose after five to six weeks. “The holes were still in the brickwork, so the rats could get in.

Fly-tipping in Handley Grove (submitted by Nicola Mann)

Fly-tipping in Handley Grove (submitted by Nicola Mann)

“It has taken the best part of a year before they finally sent someone round a couple of weeks ago to block them up again.”

Nicola said some residents had been told it was their responsibility to call pest control, but later Network said it was its responsibility and failed to inform residents, leading to confusion about where responsibility ultimately lies.

Ashleigh Squire, another Handley Grove resident, said: “I have had a mouse or a rat running around in my flat. It ran out and went into my bedroom.

“My house is not dirty, so there is no reason for rats or mice, and I don’t have the front door open. I can hear them running up and down in the attic. This is not good for my children at all.”

Overflowing bin shed in Handley Grove (submitted by Nicola Mann)

Overflowing bin shed in Handley Grove (submitted by Nicola Mann)

Ashleigh said she was told it was her responsibility to call pest control, but after speaking to Nicola she realised the problems had affected residents for “years”. “How is it my responsibility to pay for an issue Network Housing knows about?” she asked.

Nicola said that back in 2013 she was told Network would consider looking into CCTV and naming and shaming perpetrators, but the proposals were not implemented. She said some fly-tips can be cleared two days after being reported, but others are left there for three weeks. “Rubbish will just build up and up because people add more to it,” she explained.

“We are just overrun. A couple of weeks ago, Barnet Council could not open the bins. A particular resident was fly-tipping – just dumping the rubbish on the bin sheds and grass verge […] There was a brown rat sniffing around the rubbish. This is in the middle of the afternoon.”

Nicola said that when Network is made aware of residents who fly-tip, the perpetrators are only given a written warning, which she does not feel is enough to put them off reoffending. She added that the cleaning service now only attends the estate once every week following cutbacks and cannot keep up with the workload.

Neighbours say they have a \major vermin problem\ (submitted by Nicola Mann)

Neighbours say they have a \"major vermin problem\" (submitted by Nicola Mann)

Nicola also said she was told by a Network officer that residents could have a more frequent cleaning service if they were happy to pay for it, which she thought was a “breathtaking” response in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

Gerry Doherty, Network Homes’ executive director of customer services, said the association views CCTV footage remotely to identify any perpetrators responsible for fly-tipping, and the information “is then passed over to Barnet Council, who have the enforcement powers to take action that we don’t have”.

Barnet Council disputed his comments, however. A spokesperson for the council said: “Fly-tipping reported to Network Homes is Network Homes’ responsibility to investigate and remove. Barnet Council has not received any referrals of fly-tipping from Network Homes.”

Gerry added: “If the perpetrators [of fly-tipping] are residents of Network Homes, then we rely on strong evidence before we can take appropriate and proportionate enforcement action against their tenancy.

“In terms of improvements, we have recently ordered an additional bin for the Joy Court bin store. Until this is delivered, our cleaning contractors are attending three times per week and have been asked to forward any incriminating evidence to us. Once the situation is under control, contractors will reduce their visits gradually yet still focus around the most challenging times, such as bank holiday weekends. Any service that is additional and outside the agreed cleaning contract, such as extra cleaning days and bulk removal/rubbish clearance visits is an additional cost and therefore rechargeable to residents. We fully consult before any final decisions on additional services are made.

“Handley Grove has had a treatment programme in place for pest problems since 2021, which includes the inside of resident properties. This followed extensive investigations by our contractor partners in order to determine what was causing the problems. We’re working alongside contractors to continuously monitor the situation. Regarding the individual case, colleagues from Network Homes and our contractors will be visiting the resident to investigate this particular pest problem in their home.”