Housing Ombudsman urges social landlords to deal with mould

Housing Ombudsman urges social landlords to deal with mould

8:01 AM, 30th November 2022, About A year ago 6

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All social landlords are being urged to tackle complaints relating to damp and mould – and not blame a tenant for their ‘lifestyle’ as being the cause of the issue.

The call has been made by the Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway who is also questioning the handling of legal claims and the tone and communication when dealing with damp and mould cases.

In a letter to social landlords, he says they should adopt a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould and give it a higher priority with a change in culture from being reactive to proactive.

A report highlights that landlords should avoid inferring blame on residents due to ‘lifestyle’ when it is often not solely their issue and take responsibility for resolving problems.

Social landlords to assess themselves against the 26 recommendations

The Ombudsman has asked social landlords to assess themselves against the 26 recommendations published in a report last year and then engage with residents as part of that process and publish the outcome.

He says these assessments may be used as evidence during an Ombudsman investigation and his letter underlines that the use of ‘heavy-handed’ language such as blaming the resident’s lifestyle may result in a finding of maladministration.

The letter also highlights the Ombudsman’s concerns about legal claims and reminds landlords that they should continue to use the complaints procedure until legal proceedings have been issued.

If a landlord does not progress a complaint because of a claim, the Ombudsman may use his powers to escalate it, but landlords should also contact the service if they can evidence, they are struggling to progress it.

‘We are reinforcing the recommendations we made’

Mr Blakeway said: “Following the appalling and preventable death of Awaab Ishak, we are reinforcing the recommendations we made in our Spotlight report last year.

“The report highlighted our concerns about the tone of some communications, especially language such as ‘lifestyle choices’ and ‘behaviours’ that infer blame on the resident, absolving the landlord of responsibility.

“This underlying attitude can impede an effective diagnosis of the causes and timely actions that should be taken by the landlord. This reflects some of the evidence heard at the inquest.”

‘Resonated with many landlords who have taken action’

He added: “This call to change language has resonated with many landlords who have taken action.

“However, I am acutely aware that, given this language had become so widespread and accepted, the sector may still have some way to go before it is eradicated from the vernacular of social housing.

“I consider the use of patronising, stigmatising or potentially discriminatory language as ‘heavy handed’ and therefore may use our Scheme to make a finding of maladministration.”

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10:03 AM, 30th November 2022, About A year ago

Social Landlords need to get all of their properties to EPC C minimum. I visited 3 social housing premises last week and one was a G and the other 2 were F's.

Unfortunately, many will go bankrupt

Luke P

10:37 AM, 30th November 2022, About A year ago

"...and not blame a tenant for their ‘lifestyle’ as being the cause of the issue."

Most of the time it IS the tenant's lifestyle. Whilst individually and exclusively their actions maybe be considered 'normal' (drying washing indoors isn't a complete impossibility, being frugal with your heating is something that many people do...keeping your windows closed for much or all of the time isn't necessarily a problem on it's own...putting a bed in the corner of a room with two external walls is acceptable...) but it's when you put all of these things TOGETHER that the problem IS in fact that of the tenant's lifestyle.

If you cannot afford to heat the house to 20ºC minimum (and therefore protect the building and yourself from moisture in the air -even from just breathing- condensing on what will be cold surfaces of the fabric of the building leading to mould), then you already cannot truly afford the house. It's just that we don't yet use that metric. There is no realistic choice to have the building heated to anything less...certainly not with the other seemingly non-negotiable needs of tenants (they don't want to open windows for fear of making them cold[er]...cool but dry air is far more easily heated than already warm humid air...because you have to heat the moisture in the air too! But a great many tenants didn't pay attention in science class at school).

If, say, bowls and plates were handed out to people to eat their meals from, you'd (reasonable) assume and fully expect the recipient to wash those items between each use. If they were just left with the residual food on them time after time, eventually you'd get harmful things growing, causing health issues...is that the fault of the item donor or that of the recipient??

Pathetic excuse for adults are much of the renting public.

Property One

11:01 AM, 30th November 2022, About A year ago

This man simply does not understand how mould is created. It is not the fabric of the building in most cases but the amount of moisture created which needs to be vented (open a window) and heating.

Mike T

11:19 AM, 30th November 2022, About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Luke P at 30/11/2022 - 10:37
I fully agree with you Luke. We had two similar properties that had had problems with black mould.for a long time.
We had continually advised the tenants to open windows, stop drying clothes on the radiators. We had extra air vents fitted, uprated the extractor in the bathroom and also cleaned and repainted the effected rooms with damp treatment sealers etc.
But still the problems remained.
Until both families moved out !
New occupiers and a different story altogether. Now 2 winters down the line and no problems. Both houses are mould free as they ventilate properly and do not dry clothes on the radiators.
Simple solution.

Reluctant Landlord

17:35 PM, 30th November 2022, About A year ago

I agree it is how you USE the house that makes the issue appear or not.

Rule of thumb. If house empty, aired and heated has no external leaks into the property and no mould then its not the house.

Fil it with people who don't know how to live in a house (or who don't care as the perception is that EVERYTHING when you rent is down to the LL) then you got an issue.

Property One

11:08 AM, 1st December 2022, About A year ago

This is a video of Skill Builder and an expert on Damp and Condensation. People who know what they are talking about.


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