It’s a damp subject: Breaking the mould in social housing.
Many varying root causes can lead to dampness and mould in a property, and the overall impact on tenant wellbeing is familiar across the rental and affordable housing sector.
Tenants report distress, daily living disruption, financial implications, and a genuine concern for health-related mould issues and the effects on any children living within the property. There is also added strain to tenant and landlord relationships, as tenants lose trust in the organisation.
The UK’s housing stock is aging, it’s the older properties in which mould-forming conditions are more likely to occur. This could be for several factors such as building structure or poor energy efficiency from lack of insulation, ventilation, or single-glazed windows. The number of mould cases reported has higher averages with tenants in at-risk groups. Vulnerable groups are more likely to be overcrowded or living in fuel poverty. Factors that create the perfect environment for mould growth. Without addressing these issues or offering the right support to the tenant, the problem repeats itself.
It can be a challenge for landlords to know which properties to prioritise in order to respond quickly with repairs or confirm measures taken have proven successful in resolving the issue. Moving from a reactive to proactive approach in managing property inventory to assist those most in need is an essential strategy for landlords, placing the importance of tenant wellbeing at the core of the housing organisation.
Fuel poverty has seen a sharp increase since the covid-19 pandemic. 6.32 million – The estimated total number of households now predicted to be in fuel poverty due to the latest price cap rise from 1 April 2022. New forecasts suggest energy prices could increase by 51%, taking average annual bills to a whopping £2,980 this October 2022 when the next energy price cap kicks in. The estimated total number of households in fuel poverty could rise to 8.5 million by the end of 2022, including 2.5 million homes with children.
There are two main issues here, one, with the increase in energy prices, tenants will be less able to heat the home, increasing the risk of dampness and mould. But also, being able to identify and help tenants living in or at risk of fuel poverty. Both cause concern for the tenant’s wellbeing. We know that poor ventilation can lead to mould however if the tenant is living in fuel poverty and has to decide between keeping the family warm or following recommendations from the landlord of opening windows and ventilating the property, they will put their basic human need first. The housing ombudsman has called for housing organisations to establish a clear and comprehensive policy on the diagnosis and independent expertise: the steps needed to take whether causes are structural or due to tenant-related lifestyle, which is often not solely the tenant’s issue. There is some unfairness with the information provided to tenants around condensation and the effective communication and aftercare delivered to the tenant.
The housing ombudsman instructs landlords to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould. Landlords should proactively identify potential issues which, given the age of some of the social housing stock, could be more extensive than first thought. A strategic response to dampness and mould is required, particularly in the context of decarbonisation and building safety. It is recommended that Intelligence, data, and complaints should inform the strategic approach.
This approach would give the landlord and its residents insight and clarity. Monitoring the housing stock, where complaints are not being raised but all indicators suggest there may be an issue would enable a pre-actionable plan in providing better care with an uplift of tenant wellbeing and greater customer satisfaction.
With more than 5 million homes in the social housing sector across the UK, the resources and skills often needed in order to manage property inventories to collect, store and monitor data have never been more stretched, and as populations continue to grow the problem will only get worse.
What can landlords do to be more proactive in their tenant’s welfare?
Data! easily obtainable, informative, and insightful data
Remote monitoring equipment is simple and a cost-effective solution to monitor the risks of damp, and mould from forming. It monitors the environmental factors that can lead to mould infestations and can also provide insights and alerts of properties at risk of fuel poverty.
Gathering information on patterns over time provides a body of evidence, this improves operational measures, instructing repairs or customer services to act. But also ensure any actions taken can be verified to be successful to prevent a recurrence.
Sensors can be installed in a property to capture useful measurements, such as:
- Temperature Monitoring
- Humidity Monitoring
- Dew Point Monitoring
- Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Ventilation Monitoring
Caption Data Ltd has more than 13 Years of knowledge in terms of taking environmental measurements. Our smart monitoring solutions provide insights via the CDLSmartHub web-based platform.
The technology has evolved so technicians can effectively install systems with minimum training. This is a key factor in terms of adoption within organisations.
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