Damp and mould in Council owned and managed accommodation
- Meeting of Housing and Homelessness Panel (Panel of the Scrutiny Committee), Monday 13 March 2023 6.00 pm (Item 6.)
The Panel requested information about mould in Council owned and managed accommodation. The Executive Director of Communities and People has submitted a report.
The Panel is recommended to note and comment on the report and, following discussion, to make any recommendations it considers appropriate.
Mark Smart, HRA Surveying Manager, introduced the report and highlighted that the Council had changed its strategy away from a reactive one. The Council had commissioned a stock condition survey which had begun in March 2023 and was to provide better detailed knowledge of condition across the housing portfolio.
The Council had also asked Oxford Direct Services (ODS) to be more proactive in its approach to identifying damp and mould issues whilst visiting properties for other repairs and Housing Services had supported this writing to tenants and asking them to report such issues. ODS had been monitoring damp and mould calls and had responded as a priority.
The additional funding requirement had been recognised and £250k had been confirmed in the 2023/24 budget year in order to support the works and Property Services the Panel was assured that Property Services would continue to work closely with Housing Management, the Contact Centre and ODS to ensure that there was a holistic and focused approach with damp and mould cases being provided within Property Services’s monthly building compliance report.
Cllr Smith thanked the Panel for requesting the report and said that she hoped it provided reassurance that the Council and ODS had taken the matter seriously and that there was now a clear commitment to monitoring situations and not to sign jobs off until there had been an improvement rather than simply providing advice. Cllr Smith was satisfied that there were good systems in place to monitor jobs and works which went far beyond mere publicity.
The Panel welcomed the report. In response to questions, the Panel established that:
· Basic monitoring equipment was available to tenants which displayed humidity and temperature levels which can but that there had been little take up;
· Humidity controlled extractor fans were installed during the past two years;
· The Council’s website was reviewed and information regarding heat and ventilation was clarified;
· Letters were sent to tenants who were not using fans although they were provided and officers were meeting with the tenant involvement team to consider how that might be effected more easily;
· The Council wrote to the Secretary of State to say that new legislation, nicknamed ‘Awaab’s Law’, should cover private rented as well as social housing;
· The Council also made representations that the review of the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) which was begun in 2018 should be completed as a matter of urgency and should re-categorise damp and mould so that it was considered as a category 1 hazard rather than category 2;
· The Council was encouraging tenants in the private rented sector to report damp and mould issues to the Council so that it could use that as a trigger during its inspection programme;
· The Council was also the enforcing authority for housing association tenants and had taken action against housing associations previously and so encouraged tenants in housing association accommodation to report issues too;
· The Head of Housing Services had set up a task group with an action plan to ensure that every aspect both operational and strategic was under the task group’s attention;
· The Council had not yet had any issues where it was unable to install fans and extractors in internal bathrooms because there were practical workarounds.
The Panel resolved to note the report.