In this article, Viewber focuses on the challenges and improvements needed in managing damp and mould in social housing, and outlines its role in aiding social landlords with strategies, services, and education to address these critical issues
Almost everyone working in property management will have read about the untimely death of Awaab Ishak – a two-year-old boy who passed away in December 2020.
His death, as detailed in the coroner’s report, was attributed to a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to ‘extensive’ mould in the one-bedroom flat where he lived.
Pictures taken inside the property were heartbreaking and when combined with details that Awaab’s parents had complained to their local council about the mould in the three years prior to his death, the Regulator of Social Housing was forced into action.
It asked all larger, registered providers of social housing to ‘submit evidence about the extent of damp and mould in tenants’ homes and their approach to tackling it’.
As a result, Awaab’s Law was implemented by the Government in February 2023 – part of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, which came into force in July 2023.
This legislation stipulates that damp and mould reported by social tenants needs to be remedied within a certain time limit.
Between the introduction of these two new items was the publication of the Regulator of Social Housing’s report ‘Damp and mould in social housing: learning the lessons’. It contained the final analysis and conclusions from the information provided by the social housing providers it questioned.
The findings included:
- 11 landlords reporting over 50 Category 1 HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System) damp and mould hazards – the most serious reportable – in homes they manage
- 53 landlords reporting over 100 categories 2 HHSRS damp and mould hazards in homes they manage
- 8 local authority landlords showing weaknesses in their approach to damp and mould, noted as:
- Not having comprehensive and up-to-date stock condition surveys and data
- Not having a clear process to deal with damp and mould in their homes
- Not being able to demonstrate they knew the number of cases of damp and mould in their homes
Awaab’s case has gone a long way in raising awareness of damp and mould in social housing settings. As a result, more social tenants are complaining about their living standards but, sadly, the way their complaints are handled still needs improvement.
To illustrate, the Housing Ombudsman’s annual complaints review revealed more than 5,000 complaints were investigated in 2022 for the first time – up 28% in a year. Worryingly, more than half of the findings were upheld.
The ‘Damp and Mould in Social Housing: Learning the Lessons’ report did mark out what good social housing landlords were doing, which was of particular interest to Viewber. Many of the positives pertained to the condition of the housing stock, in-person monitoring and the management of properties where damp or mould was identified.
It was found effective organisations and high-performing social landlords:
- demonstrated a good oversight of stock condition, including damp and mould, with regular progress reports made to governing bodies.
- held accurate and up-to-date property condition information, based on comprehensive stock condition surveys
- took a more proactive approach by looking at other similar properties once damp and mould had been identified in a home.
- demonstrated a strong focus on understanding the current condition of tenants’ homes.
- established a specialist team to respond to damp and mould issues, working to specific response times and with clear key performance indicators (KPIs),
- visited tenants three and six months after the repairs were completed, to ensure that the damp and mould in the home had not returned.
Viewber is strengthening its working relationships with social landlords and housing associations, with our network well placed to help organisations take on board the lessons learned, implement new mould and damp prevention/repair strategies, meet KPIs and comply with the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023.
Our services on offer to social landlords encompasses:
- A Viewber visiting any given property where damp or mould has been reported by a tenant
- Undertaking a routine visit to assess the current condition of a property as part of a stock inventory program
- Speaking with tenants about their concerns, noting down key details
- Livestreaming from the property, so property managers gain a real-time snapshot of a property’s condition
- Compiling a bespoke or a specific written report, with photographic or video evidence
- Letting in, waiting and locking up after services suitable for trades visiting an unoccupied property
- Returning to the property to check any repairs have been carried out
- Returning to the property to check whether there are new signs of condensation, damp or mould
A Viewber can also pass on any literature that may help a tenant manage the sources of ambient or ‘lifestyle’ damp, explaining anything that is unclear.
A Viewber can also report back if they think there are any barriers to the literature being understood and implemented, such as disability, welfare or mental health issue.
Tenants should be encouraged to:
- Keep lids on saucepans when cooking
- Keep the bathroom door shut when bathing
- Open a window in any room where washing is drying
- Use the central heating to keep a constant ambient temperature
- Wipe condensation off window sills promptly
- Move furniture away from outside walls to improve air circulation
- Boil only enough water required to cut a kettle’s boiling duration
- Air a property on a regular basis by opening as many windows as safely possible
- Consider the use of a dehumidifier
- Report any increase in condensation
- Report any damp odours inside the property
- Report any black mould spots
- Report any leaks, watermarks, bubbling pair or peeling wallpaper promptly
Housing Digital Stakeholder Viewber offers a wide range of property services to the UK Housing Sector, working collaboratively with organisations to offer, via an intuitive portal and app, access to a fully nationwide network of trusted, vetted and local ‘Viewbers’.
Viewber is ready to help social landlords and housing associations manage the condition of their stock and take effective action against mould. We can increase an organisation’s capacity for property visits, produce detailed reports and provide a follow-up service to help ensure there are no recurrent issues. Please contact us to find out more.
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