A couple say their four-decade-old home has been overrun by flies, and they’re so embarrassed they refuse to let anyone in.
Angela Hickey, 68, and John Hickey, 79, say the property they have lived on for 43 years has been invaded by thousands of drain flies, which belong to the family Psychodidae and are sometimes known as butterfly flies.
The couple, from Stanmore, Middlesex, in the south east of England, allege their housing association has failed to resolve the matter satisfactorily.
The couple were moved to a hotel after the association said it would fumigate the property and shut down the kitchen to assess the source of the problem.
The Hickeys claim that when they returned home they found minimal work had been done – and the flies were still on the property.
Almost 18 months after first noticing the flies, they are still trying to get rid of them.
The Home Group Housing Association said its team had “done everything possible to try to resolve the issue”.
But Angela said: “It’s so embarrassing and means we can’t let anyone into the house – we had a new grandson who was born in January 2021 and we couldn’t have him here because I wouldn’t that to a child.
“It got to the stage where we were eating and they were flying into your mouth and down your throat – they’re in our cupboards, our fridge, in literally everything, there’s no respite anywhere.
“I wouldn’t even go into the kitchen, when you’re trying to cook a meal and they land on it, everything has to go in the trash.
“My husband is approaching 80 and has a bad back, but he spends all his time pulling out kitchen appliances to clean up hundreds of dead flies underneath.”
The couple say they moved into the property, which is currently owned by the Home Group Housing Association, in 1979 when it was built.
They first noticed the flies in November 2020; they chalked it up to an anomaly and didn’t think too much about it.
They then started noticing the flies at night so they called the housing association who said they were unable to help due to COVID-19 restrictions.
That means it wasn’t until April 2021 that a maintenance worker was dispatched to the property, according to the couple. By then, the Hickeys say the infestation had gotten significantly worse.
The flies were mainly in the bathroom which had previously been converted into a wet room due to Angela’s disability. The couple claim that when the bathroom was installed, the pipes had not been sealed properly, leaving room for flies to appear.
Another contractor was sent to seal the pipes; however, it had been left so long that the flies had established themselves elsewhere in the unit.
The number of flies began to increase dramatically and were found throughout the property including the bedroom and kitchen.
The property was fumigated several times, they say, but flies continued to appear in their home.
That’s when Angela says the Home Group Housing Association made the decision to move the couple to a hotel while they came out of the kitchen to investigate the source of the flies.
However, they say when they returned they found the kitchen was still in the same condition, with only a few pipes under the sink showing signs of being sealed and the flat having been fumigated again.
Now the couple say they’re still plagued by drain flies and don’t know how to fix the problem.
“It started in November 2020 when we started noticing a few black flies in the kitchen and at first we didn’t think much about it,” Angela said.
“We called the housing association to report it and were told they couldn’t get out due to COVID.
“The first time they came out was in April 2021 with some spray that the contractor sprayed on the flies he could see on the walls.
“At this point they were mostly in the bathroom and we started noticing them coming out of a pipe behind the toilet; we had a wet room installed a few years ago and when it was installed, they hadn’t sealed the pipes together.
“Someone came and sealed the pipe, but because it had been left for so long, the flies had nested elsewhere in the apartment. We started noticing them in the kitchen and near the window of the bedroom and it snowballed after that.
“They didn’t want to do any proper work because of the cost, but we’ve lived here for 43 years. I told them they would have to deduct it from the rent we paid during that time.
“They took us out while they were fumigating and when we came back we found hundreds of them on window sills and all over the floor.
“I can’t go very far because I’m disabled and more or less housebound, but they don’t seem to care – even when I showed them pictures and asked them if they would like to live like that.
“A little over a week ago they said they were going to get us out, get the whole kitchen out and find out what was going on.
“They put us in a hotel and said it would be a week at first. I kept telling them I needed an accessible room with a shower room because I’m disabled, but the minute we walked in we knew it was not a handicapped room.
“I ended up having an accident when I went over a ramp with my walker; I went over it and landed on my split head.
“I told the housing association I was going home on Friday and we asked a neighbor to pick us up, and when we got back nothing looked like it had been done.
“They said they were going to remove the whole kitchen for my husband to drain everything but we came back and nothing had changed, the only thing that had been done was some piping under the sink.
“We still have flies. We wouldn’t have been in this situation and I wouldn’t have had this accident if they had listened to us in the first place.”
Louise Barkes, Maintenance Manager at Home Group, said: “We are sorry to hear that our customers are unhappy with the way we have tried to resolve their issue.
“Despite the fact that these types of issues are the responsibility of our customers, the team went above and beyond to try to resolve the issue.
“We carried out five pest checks and engaged three different pest control companies – we worked closely with the Harrow Environmental Health Department who praised us for our tenacity.
“Cost was never an issue, it was the fact that all fumigations proved unsuccessful, so we suggested looking behind the kitchen units and under the floor to see if we could find the root of the problem.
“We found corroded pipes, which we replaced. We believe we have solved the problem, but we will know more once the life cycle of the flies is over.
“The work was due to take place on May 16, but due to a leak in the bathroom, it was agreed that we would bring the work forward as our customers would not have a bathroom.
“Our customers moved over the May bank holiday weekend, which meant there were a limited number of hotel rooms.
“The team spent days searching for hotels, bed and breakfasts and rental properties trying to find alternative accommodation, but were unsuccessful due to high demand.
“We have provided a wheelchair to help with access issues.
“We are very sorry to hear of the fall of our customers but relieved that they are well.”
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.