The damaging effects of damp and mould have been well documented over the last few years. High-profile cases due to the UK’s ageing housing stock, and people’s ability to heat their houses sufficiently during rising energy and a cost-of-living crisis, means there have been concerns about the potentially massive health problems damp and mould could cause.
In direct response to the tragic case of Awaab Ishak, who died because of damp and mould, and the “significant failings” by the housing association responsible for his death, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) asked for submissions of evidence from large social housing providers on damp and mould in their housing stock. The recent release of the final analysis of the report has highlighted the increasing emphasis on stock condition assessment and dealing with problems quickly when they arise.
The report, “Learning the Lessons”, gave a comprehensive analysis of the state of social housing and the damp and mould issues. The evidence showed that most tenants live in homes that are largely free from damp and mould and that the majority of landlords are able to deal with it effectively.
However, it is clear that despite this, some residents in some properties are still facing problems and landlords need to resolve these. The Housing Ombudsman dealt with 1,595 complaints from residents about damp and mould from 2019-2021. And they recommend that landlords should adopt a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould.
By adopting a proactive approach to stock monitoring landlords could see significant benefits. Repairs and remedial works can be undertaken expeditiously, it can enhance tenant wellbeing, and enable resources to be prioritised to the most vulnerable properties. Continual, automated collection of temperature and humidity data combined with damp and mould risk assessments also allows potential issues to be identified before a resident’s health is at risk.
Tenants can also play an important part in preventing damp and mould and helping to stop it spread. Mould always arises from moisture in the building and it thrives in warm, damp conditions. However, people are often limited by their individual circumstances such as disability, financial hardship or health conditions in what they can do.
Ventilate your home
Moist, warm conditions offer the perfect environment for mould to grow in. Leaving windows open, even for 10 minutes every day, can help moisture escape and prevent mould being able to grow.
Turn on extractor fan hod
Turn on for 10-15 mins after you have cooked and this will help the moisture in the air to escape, especially in kitchens where cooking can create a lot of steam. Keep pan lids on when cooking to retain condensation and keep the door shut whilst cooking.
Dry clothes outside when possible
Dry clothes outside – even during a sunny winter’s day they will dry, but if you dry them inside the moisture from wet clothes settles on walls. If you do need to dry them indoors keep the window open so the moisture can escape.
Buy a dehumidifier
A dehumidifier draws moisture from the air into a small tank, which you can empty. Smaller, non-electrical dehumidifiers contain water-absorbing crystals can be bought for under £10 and are great for inside wardrobes or behind cupboards. You can find a list of recommended dehumidifiers here. They can be expensive so talk to your local council and see if you qualify for the ‘Household Support Fund’ which can provide help with living costs.
Contact your landlord
If you’re renting, and mould has developed as a result of a structural problem, your landlord should take action. Cracks in the walls, poor insulation, plumbing issues and rising damp fall to your landlord to sort. Notify your landlord as soon as possible.
Proactive monitoring sensors
A small, unobtrusive sensor placed in the kitchen can offer continuous and automated detection of damp, mould, and fuel poverty risks. With minimal installation these sensors enable individuals and housing providers to promptly find out when a property is at high risk. IoT Solutions Group, in collaboration with housing providers, has developed DORIS care to address the challenges faced by social housing landlords. As the RSH report said “High quality, comprehensive and up-to-date stock condition information is the foundation of strong asset management. Landlords cannot improve the quality of the homes tenants live in if they do not know what condition they are in and what investment they need.” Careium is able to triage data from DORIS care and be alerted if the sensor detects any change out of the ordinary and contact the user or landlord to check they and the property is OK.
Gary Clark, Careium’s Technical Director, said “Anyone’s home can be affected by damp and mould, which can cause health related issues and be worse for the vulnerable with breathing related conditions. Therefore, it’s vital that early detection of such issues is identified and resolved by landlords. DORIS care is an innovative activity sensor that has the ability to detect changes in air quality and the environment. With it now being fully integrated with our monitoring centre we are excited to be able to offer DORIS to our customers”.
Kingston Council successfully installed the sensors in residents’ homes to remotely monitor temperature and humidity so it could identify properties with critical cold and potential for mould, allowing them to go and talk to residents and offer support. Read more Kingston Council’s proactive approach to damp & mould here.
IoT Solution Group has worked with various housing providers, deploying remote sensing technology to collect data and tackle environmental issues. They have shared the most popular implementation and monitoring process for stock condition monitoring.
The conclusion of the report highlights that progress has been made, but that there are still areas for improvement among social housing providers.
“I encourage…teams to read [this report] carefully and ask themselves challenging questions about how they could make improvements to what they currently do. As well as tackling damp and mould issues, it is vitally important that landlords look at how they manage the condition and quality of the tenants’ homes in the round.”Chief Executive of the Regulator for Social Housing, Fiona MacGregor
Advice and guidance to tenants on what they can do to prevent damp and mould is vital, as is proactive monitoring of housing stock to allow social housing landlords to address property issues, ensure tenant well-being, and confidently navigate the evolving regulatory landscape.
For more information on recommendations to landlords read Housing Ombudsman Service ‘Spotlight on Damp and Mould’.
Contact Careium to discuss how we can support you as an individual or if you are a landlord [email protected]