Spotlight on: Damp and Mould It’s not lifestyle

While most social housing is of a decent standard and Registered Providers do their upmost to maintain this standard, recent media coverage of the poor conditions some tenants live in has highlighted the impact of what can happen when complaints are not responded to or handled correctly.

The damp and mould report, published in October 2021 is arguably one of the most impactful reports produced by the Ombudsman. Titled “It’s not lifestyle,” points to the common assertion made by Landlords that mould and damp present in tenants’ homes has been caused as a result of the way that they live and the condition in which they keep their homes, and not because of issues with the property itself.

The report has 26 recommendations, which are based on investigations across 142 landlords and more than 500 submissions through the call for evidence process.

It discusses a culture where some landlords just expect damp and mould issues to happen and respond, often inadequately, when they come up. At the heart of the report is a message for landlords to take a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould and so, the recommendations are therefore aimed at moving social landlords from a reactive to a proactive approach, and improving their complaints systems.

This includes but is not limited to regular inspections, better record keeping and using data from complaints to get ahead of any issues. Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman stated “Landlords need to be thinking, ‘If we have got an issue here, what does that say about other buildings within our portfolio’”.

Concerns have been raised about the efficacy of doing this when competing with the pressures of building safety and zero-carbon requirements. Mr Blakewayadmits that the operational environment is tricky at the moment due to landlords having so many issues to fix, however, he believes it also poses an opportunity. With landlords checking their stock in a more concerted way that ever before for reasons suchas classing and sustainability, this could provide them with better knowledge of stock condition.

What can you do as a landlord to implement the findings of this report?

The Report was published in October 2021, since then the costs of living crisis has worsened, and more tenants are living in fuel poverty than ever before. This will mean there will be more properties which are poorly heated and ventilated, leading to increased condensation and in turn, an increase in damp and mould cases. Now more than ever, landlords will need to put in more strategic works upfront to attempt to combat damp and mould issues.

Practical tips you can do include, but are not limited to:

-Keep better records of any complaints made by tenants.

-Respond quickly to any complaints.

-Update your damp and mould procedure. Investigate any complaint thoroughly –do not simply send a damp leaflet.

-Ensure your staff –whether in-house or contractors –have the ability to identify and report early signs of damp and mould.

-Are there any proactive steps you can take / interventions to prevent damp and mould? Consider a stock survey focusing on areas where you may have had several disrepair claims.

-Implement a data driven, risk-based approach in respect of damp and mould –identify any issues and support the tenant before a compliant or disrepair claim is made.

The full report including the 26 recommendations can be found here.

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