Damp and Mould - Presentation
· Committee received a presentation from Matt West , Assistant Director – Housing Property Services on the Council’s response to Damp and Mould issues within its housing stock and the following issues were highlighted –
· In terms of definition, the director advised that damp is a case where there is excessive moisture in a building, whilst condensation is moisture in the air forming on cold surfaces and in the case of mould which is harmful and hazardous which is fungus growth on surfaces thrives on food and moisture.
· Meeting was advised of the importance of identifying the causes of damp in order to address it and includes repairs, building design, overcrowding and fuel poverty.
· Director advised that in the last 3 years, the Service has received over 4510 requests for inspections in 3661 properties (13%), that 95% of in which have been resolved in one or two visits and 5% have required more than two visits.
· Presently there are 20 on going live legal cases about damp and mould, that data does suggest damp cases exist in all wards and property types with some estates experiencing higher incidents and notably fewer cases in communally heated estates.
· Members were advised that the Council is ensuring that it is easy to report incidents of damp and mould, that there is now in place a dedicated phone line, that priority is given to vulnerable cases where damp keeps returning or tenants have particular vulnerability. Also all cases are logged and cannot be untracked until survey works and a three month check have been completed,
· Director informed the meeting that although not a solution in the long run, priority is given to mould wash so as to remove any risk of it spreading.
· The Director highlighted other support such as its links with support for fuel poverty by providing advice or signposting residents to available council support, it also ensures that its Capital works programme consider damp as part of its programme and that it ensures the heat map highlights multiple properties in the same block so we can check on other residents.
· On revisiting cases where damp and mould have been reported in the last 3years, the Council is offering a visit to every property, that it uses a mix of data to assess the risk of each case and are visiting the worst cases first. Basis.
· The Service made 150 contacts with its residents in January of which 22 have been resolved and in the month of February, it will embark on bulk call to all cases.
· Training has been provided for all people who enter properties to recognise and report it, that the Council’s approach is being designed with a range of partners, that it will be creating a way to share information and flag concerns.
· Meeting was advised that there is a recognition that damp and mould is more wider and complex than just repairs, that the council is now being proactive around supporting residents with heat poverty, the need to increase housing supply and ensuring that support is available for vulnerable tenants.
· Meeting was advised of the various Capital Works, that several schemes were either already underway or completed, for example with the Andover, several pilot schemes had been completed regarding the programme of insulating cold surfaces and improving ventilation. Similarly in Girdlestone, roof improvements have been carried out, asbestos has been removed and water supply has been improved with works around the drainage been carried out.
· In the case of street properties, meeting was advised of (SHDF) Social Housing Decarbonisation fund which has been used to carry out insulation work improving EPC rating through insulation and window improvements.
· As part of Council’s efforts to address damp and mould, meeting was advised that the Service will be undertaking annual housing audits, an opportunity for officers to check a range of issues with residents ,collecting information to help run services suited for tenants needs and to receive direct feedback from every home, that it is important through the audit, officers pick up issues with homes that cannot or would not report incidents using existing means.
· Members were advised that due to the high profile cases reported in the press, there has been high levels of demand, that the Council is struggling to bring in additional surveyors as this is a national issue.
· The Executive Member for Housing and Communities reiterated systems are in place, that all damp and mould cases will be tracked and speedy resolved, reminding the public that any incidents should be reported to the Housing Direct on 0207 5275406 or Freephone number 0800 6943344 or email - dampandmould@Islington.gov.uk or the Executive Member Cllr Una O’Halloran.
· Members were advised that both techniques training and systems are being reviewed by HQN/UCL and industry experts, that it will be using UCL NZC data to look at possible overall costs or investment and consider the use of automated tracking systems going forward.
· In response to a question on how many disrepair cases are yet to be settled legally by the Council, The Assistant Director advised that information will be circulated to Committee members.
· On the involvement of the Housing Ombudsman, the meeting was advised that the Council is responding to their request, that the Council is given it a high priority and that Committee will be updated in due course.
· In response to an enquiry on whether Council had plans to clear gutters annually as it remains one of the causes of damp and mould, the Director acknowledged that there is a programme to address this issue, noting that the Service needs to be more proactive around this issue.
· The Director acknowledged that the Council will be considering further technology to identify damp and mould in properties acknowledging the use of infra red cameras and hydrometer to assess the level of dampness. Meeting was also advised that the service is looking at other diagnostic technology as part of the ongoing review of technology being used, noting that the use of H Vacuum units in buildings as it tolerates the building atmosphere as it keeps the temperature at medium.
· Meeting was reminded that the focus should be around preventive measures rather than repairs and that the suggestion that residents should open windows and their heating on is not practicable especially during this period of high energy costs.
· With regard how RSL’s manage damp and mould, meeting was advised that the Council shares its damp framework with them to ensure that they are being proactive. Meeting was also advised that the Director , the Executive Member and the 2 Members of Parliament (MP) had met recently met 2 leading Housing Association to discuss the issue among other subjects such as performances and strategic alignment so as to hold them to account.
· The Executive Member reiterated that resident with issues of damp and mould who require a survey should contact Housing Direct on 0207 527 5400 or the freephone number of 0800 694 3344 or email directly to dampandmould @islingtton.gov.uk.
That the presentation be noted
That Officers will provide information regarding the pending live cases