It is all too common that the news reports a resident struggling with damp and mould in their home. Across the UK, building owners are finally being challenged on the issue and being forced to improve by the government.
This is the right thing to happen, as everyone deserves to live in a warm and dry home. Poor conditions can lead to mental health problems, breathing issues, and even death.
Whether you are in a council house, or rent privately, you should be taken seriously when it comes to damp and mould.
This is why I asked the council to present to the Places Committee about what they are doing to tackle damp and mould across their housing stock.
I was thrilled that we received a really in-depth report on how damp and mould arise as well as a great discussion on what the council is doing and can do.
I’ve attached a copy of the Officer’s presentation below.
Encouragingly, Havering carry out a Damp and Mould MOT on properties, on a regular basis, to check that their homes are OK.
My meeting summary:
There are a number of contributing factors, but two stand out. Building construction and lifestyle.
The report highlighted that a person will generate around 15 litres of water a day. To compare, that’s 7 of those large bottles of coke. That water comes from various places. Breathing, cooking, having a shower etc. Think of anything where you see steam.
For some, this figure can be much higher. If you’re someone who boils a lot of food, you’ll generate more. If you have a lot of people in your house, just breathing can create condensation.
Now, we’re not going to suggest you hold your breath indoors, so we need to think about whether your home is suitable for the activity that goes on inside.
Do you have an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom? Do your windows have those little air vents on then etc?
If you’re renting a home, you can speak to your landlord about getting a extractor fan fitted. Havering Council shared about how they are fitting many.
The building construction issues are usually related to buildings constructed around the 60’s – 80’s. You’d think it may be the older Victorian homes. But they tend to do OK.
Concrete was used a lot, in flats. This concrete attracts moisture and cold air. Sometimes, if you have a concrete balcony, that concrete may act as a transmitter, bringing cold and damp into your home.
Similarly, fitting these homes with central heating can create condensation.
Havering are doing work to retrofit homes, to make sure that they deal with this problem.
If you are experiencing damp and mould in your home, please contact your landlord. Don’t suffer in silence. It’s serious and they have an obligation to support you.
Will the building improvement works be impacted by council spending cuts?
No. The work is known as ‘capital works’ and this is a separate budget to the General Fund (which is where the council has to make cuts). The improvement works, to tackle damp and mould, will continue.
Are the council educating residents on lifestyle changes?
This brought up a good debate, as Cllrs pointed out that the government uses its website to say that lifestyle cannot be blamed.
Council Officers assured us that they have produced a guide, for residents, on how to avoid contributing to damp. This is important because, even if the council spends money improving homes, people can still cause damp and mould to appear with the way they live.
This isn’t about blaming residents, it’s about making sure everyone knows how to keep their home warm and dry.
Does every home have an extractor fan?
The council is in a process of updating and installing extractor fans where they are needed. In some instances, the existing fan may not be enough. The Damp and Mould MOTs should identify this, but residents should flag it with the council if they have a concern.
Some new builds won’t have an extractor fan. Instead, they may have an air-circulation system. This will do a similar job.
Can’t we add more insulation, including internally?
Where appropriate, this can work. However, this can actually make things worse in some circumstances.
To avoid damp, one has to have good airflow in their home. If you over-insulate a property then you can end up trapping the moisture inside the home.
Summary and recommendations.
There were a lot more questions and discussions, but Councillors were united in their thanks for the report and their keenness to know more.
We have asked the Officers to produce a report that will show the number of homes facing damp and mould, over the last few years. This will allow us to identify if the situation is getting better or worse.
Councillors also asked about what the council is or can do to protect people who rent from private landlords. I have suggested that the committee form a working group on this, to investigate the problem and to see where the council can protect residents, even if they rent from someone else.
Damp and mould creates health problems, social problems, and cost problems.
If we can effectively tackle this in Havering, and protect vulnerable residents, then we’ll be doing some real good for some of our most vulnerable!