Social housing plays a vital role in providing many people with secure and affordable housing, offering protection from the uncertainty of private renting.
However the ongoing debate around the quality of social housing in England has highlighted serious questions around safety and suitability. Back in July, a cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee published a report which found that the condition of some social housing in England has deteriorated so badly, as to now be considered unfit for human habitation – a conversation initially started by the English Housing Ombudsman report from October 2021.
In fact, the report found that too many social housing tenants are living in uninhabitable homes and experiencing appalling conditions and levels of disrepair. This includes serious damp and mould issues in some properties, with potentially serious impacts on tenants’ mental and physical health.
This is, of course, unacceptable and the best solution to this is for social housing to be free from issues such as damp and mould in the first place.
What does the report say?
The Committee’s Regulation of Social Housing report addresses a series of issues relating to the supply, quality and regulation of social housing in England. As illustrated in an ITV News investigation, the worst housing conditions often involve damp and mould.
There was broad agreement, however, among both providers and tenant bodies, that the worst conditions were not representative of the whole sector.
In response, the Government has announced a series of measures to raise standards in the sector. It is currently legislating, through the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, to reform the regulation of the quality of social housing. It has also instructed the regulatory body – the Regulator of Social Housing – to review its consumer standards, which all registered providers are supposed to meet.
What are the potential consequences for landlords?
As Clive Betts, Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, has said: “Too many social housing tenants are living in uninhabitable homes and experiencing appalling conditions and levels of disrepair, including serious damp and mould, with potential serious impacts on their mental and physical health.”
In response to this, solicitors have begun offering no-win, no fee legal support for claims against social housing providers for damp and mould related issues. This represents a significant step, and raises tangible consequences for landlords. However, the situation is preventable, and there are steps that can be taken by landlords and tenants alike in order to remedy the situation before it gets to this stage.
The causes of damp and mould
Mould grows where liquid water and dampness is present for at least six hours (as this time period allows the germination of spores), and is the visible manifestation of wider problems. Damp conditions and the resulting mould is often caused by condensation, which happens when warm moist air touches a colder surface at dew point.
One in five properties in the UK will suffer from condensation at some point. A study conducted by Rentokil Property Care in 2019 highlighted a number of potential issues facing tenants in social and privately rented housing, revealing that approximately 5.8 million renters have experienced damp and condensation issues.
Typical causes are a lack of heating, insulation or ventilation in a property. Moisture in buildings can also be caused by other means, including leaking pipes, rising damp in basements or ground floors, or rain seeping in because of damage to the roof or around window frames. A newly built home may be damp if the water used when building it is still drying out – for example, in the plaster on the walls.
This moisture needs to escape, otherwise it can build-up in the property and condense on cold surfaces.
Whilst mould itself typically doesn’t cause health issues – unless you’re very young, immunosuppressed or elderly – it does indicate that a property is potentially too cold and/or poorly ventilated. Damp problems can also lead to side effects such as unpleasant smells, dark stains on walls and surface damage to paintwork.
How can it be prevented?
The key to preventing condensation and mould within social housing is ensuring sufficient ventilation. For landlords, this involves making sure that air bricks are clear, windows can be opened or vented, and that any mechanical ventilation systems (such as kitchen and bathroom extraction fans) are in good working order.
Alternatively, if the problem persists, the professional installation of positive input ventilation can be an option.
Dry Air Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) units work by increasing the flow of fresh, dry and ambient heated air throughout a property, which ultimately results in pushing out the damp, stale and stagnant air within the property.
A PIV unit can be installed either in the loft or on an internal wall to introduce a source of clean, fresh air into the home, helping to keep the property fresh, dry and free from condensation.
In most cases, PIV units are relatively straightforward to install, and the air ventilation they provide will combat condensation, regardless of which room it is installed in.
As a landlord, it is advisable to take action and consult an expert to thoroughly check your properties for any damp or mould issues. As a trusted provider, the experts at Peter Cox have been solving damp and mould problems in property care since the 1970s. From branches across the United Kingdom, we can provide effective, essential repairs with minimal disruption to tenants for many years to come.