Urgent Item - Damp and Mould in Islington Council Housing
Councillor Una O’Halloran, Executive Member for Homes and Communities highlighted the following actions which Council proposes to carry out in addressing the issues of Damp and Mould within its housing stock.
· Council will recontact all tenants who had previously requested a damp and mould survey in the last two years, and works will be prioritised based on number of the reports, vulnerabilities and complaints. Additional resources will be brought in to carry out home visit where this has been an issue.
· All reported complaints over the last 2 years, including members enquiries and resident reported cases of condensation, damp and mould will be reviewed, identifying what additional interventions could be made to address and resolve the issue and this may include additional works such as new ventilation or insulation.
· Members were advised that presently the council has already conducted work to reduce the likelihood of damp and on the most effected estates and further investment is ongoing, that the Council will continue to use repairs data to source estates that need investment to reduce the chance of damp and mould.
· Council is working with health partners to overlay information about families with health conditions that may require repairs to go even further in those houses to prevent damp and condensation
· In addition to the above, the repair service is investigating the greater use of remote loggers to help diagnose the cause of damp in properties.
· The Council will be setting up a dedicated phone line and email contact for residents concerned about damp and mould which will offer advice, the ability to report concerns and book a surveyors visit.
· Meeting was advised that a weekly panel will be set up to review cases of repeat reports of damp and mould with a view to sending senior surveyors and or increasing the levels of work or moving the family into temporary accommodation while work is being carried out.
· Council is working with local housing associations, encouraging them to take a similar proactive approach.
· The Council is working with University College London and Building Expert Mike Parrett to ensure that the best investigative techniques are employed and also in designing an affordable retrofit package for the worst cases.
· In terms of investment, the Executive Member noted that given the councils varied stock, some properties have a higher chance of getting damp and mould than others however the Council will continue to invest capital funding to improve all of its housing stock.
· On the issue of window and boiler replacements, the Council will ensure that capital works consider water supply pipes and wastes that may be past their serviceable life so as to prevent leaks.
· Members were advised of dedicated programme to reduce damp and leaks at Girdlestone which has been completed and the pilot at the Andover Estate have been completed.
· The Council is seeking grant funding to improve insulation and heating across its housing stock.
· It was noted that repairs call waiting times have been too long for the last few months, due to increase in emergency orders and partly due to staff retention issues, however staff numbers have improved.
· A significant number of people have experienced frustrating situations, so the Council has commissioned HQN to undertake a systems thinking style customer care review to look at each stage of the experience and recommend improvements.
· Meeting was advised that supervisors and the dedicated leak team are presently reviewing all outstanding leak actions before actions are finally closed.
· Also how Council manages its housing complaints is being reviewed with a view to providing a holistic service.
· The Council aims to launch an improved information systems during large events (power outages, heating failures etc) and improve online offer.
· On the proposed timeline for the proposed changes and actions, meeting was advised that the Council is working on it and details will be brought back to committee in the near future.
· On the processes involved resolving mould and damp, the meeting was advised that anyone experiencing these issues would report it via the Council’s general repair process, after which it would be allocated for an inspection and advice is provided and information following a visit and then repairs undertaken, however more needs to be done.
· In response to a question on how many cases and details on leaks, condensation etc, meeting was advised that a report would be brought to committee in the future, that there are presently about 150 cases which have been identified.
· On whether council had any details of ongoing legal proceedings against the Council regarding damp and mould, meeting was advised that officers are sifting through a lot of repair cases and presently exact numbers regarding damp and mould are not available.
· Meeting was advised that surveys of the housing stock will be carried out by in house surveyors and additional resources is being embarked for the programme.
· On the role of the environmental health team in addressing damp and mould, meeting was advised that housing officers work closely with their counterparts and regularly refer cases to them.
· In response to Housing Ombudsman claims that housing officers first response is to blame resident’s lifestyle for incidents of damp and mould in their properties, the meeting was advised that things have changed following the Andover Estate experience, that officers now recognise the causes of damp and mould are complex and the council should ensure it offers suitable responses for every case
· Council should be more proactive, carrying out individual visits to properties especially where cases had already been reported, similar to how Council undertakes its annual gas safety checks of properties , the Director advised that all options were being considered and a report detailing the cost of such exercise would be reported back to committee in due course.
· Officer also acknowledged that the quality of materials used for repairs are being reviewed to ensure that it meets high standards.
· A suggestion about using forums like the Tenant and Resident Panel to hold councillors and council accountable was noted. Meeting was advised that officers will be updating ward councillors of instances of mould and damp within their wards going forward.
· The Chair stated that in light of the serious nature of damp and mould within the council’s housing stock and its potential impact on residents wellbeing and welfare, this issue should be included as a standard item on the committee agenda for the next few meetings.
· With regards to how much it will cost the council to resolve this issue, officer advised that information is unavailable, although presently the council has committed a level of expenditure in its overall repair budget to address this issue.
· The Chair acknowledged the enormity of the task ahead, however Committee would welcome the cost the council as it is important that Council is not only viewed as open and transparent by its residents, it would also assist the council identify and plan its priorities. The Chair requested that information on cost should be presented to the committee.
· On the issue of procurement, meeting was advised that 80% of the works is carried out by the Council’s in house repairs team and 20% by external contractors, that the latter is generally used for large and complex cases.
· Meeting was advised that the Council is in discussions with other housing providers to carry out similar works and getting them to review works already carried out.
· A suggestion that the key to resolving ongoing issues raised by residents is for all repairs to be followed up after some agreed time period after the initial repairs were originally carried out to establish if it has been fully resolved before it is signed off.
· With regards to access to central government grant to support council in resolving this issue, meeting was advised of an ongoing campaign and lobbying on this issue for over a decade.
· A suggestion for officers to revisit both the findings and recommendations of the housing ombudsman’s findings was noted.
Chair thanked both the Executive Member and officers, noting the
importance of this issue and requesting
that officers schedule this item on the agenda for future
Item to be scheduled on the agenda of the committee for future meetings