Mould in social housing: The landlord's guide

Social housing providers face challenges managing damp and mould. We share the strategies, services and education that helps them address these critical issues.
Black mould on ceilings

If you work in property management, you will probably be aware of Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old boy who passed away three years ago this month. The coroner's report attributed the toddler's death to a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to "extensive" mould in the flat where he lived. Published photos of the property were both heartbreaking and shocking. At inquest, it was revealed that Awaab's parents complained to their local council about growing mould levels during the three years' before his death.

The case forced the Regulator of Social Housing to act: requiring large, registered providers to: "submit evidence about the extent of damp and mould in tenants’ homes and their approach to tackling it."

This resulted in Awaab’s Law, which came into force in July 2023 as part of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023. The legislation stipulates that reports of damp and mould by social housing tenants must be remedied within prescribed time limits.

Damp and mould in social housing: learning the lessons

The Regulator of Social Housing questioned social housing providers to better understand the extent of the issue, before introducing new requirements for social landlords. These efforts resulted in ‘Damp and mould in social housing: learning the lessons’.

The paper's revelations included 11 landlords reporting more than 50 Category 1 HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System) damp and mould hazards in their current building stock. These are the most serious reportable. A further 53 landlords reported more than 100 Category 2 HHSRS damp and mould hazards.

Alongside this, eight local authority landlords showed weakness in their approach to this, which is defined as:

  • Lacking comprehensive and up-to-date stock condition surveys and data  
  • Absence of a clear process to deal with damp and mould  
  • Inability to demonstrate they knew the number of cases of damp and mould in their homes

Room for improvement

While Awaab’s case has gone a long way in raising awareness of damp and mould issues within social housing - resulting in more tenants complaining about living standards - there is still room for improvement.

In 2022, the Housing Ombudsman's annual review revealed the investigation of more than 5,000 complaints - its highest yet and an increase of 28% on the previous year. More than half of the findings were upheld.  

The ‘Damp and Mould in Social Housing: Learning the Lessons’ report shares best practices for social landlords in addressing this issue. It notes that effective landlords: 

  • demonstrate good oversight of stock condition, including damp and mould, with regular progress reports made to governing bodies 
  • hold accurate and up-to-date property condition information, based on comprehensive stock condition surveys  
  • take a more proactive approach: looking at similar properties once damp and mould are identified in a home  
  • demonstrate a strong focus on understanding the current condition of tenants’ homes
  • establish a specialist team to respond to damp and mould issues, working to specific response times and with clear key performance indicators (KPIs)  
  • visit tenants three and six months after the completing repairs - ensuring damp and mould in the home had not returned  

Measure, monitor and manage building stock

Novacene's innovative, AI-driven approach to measuring, monitoring and managing building stock provides social landlords with the insights and guidance necessary to improve conditions for their tenants.

Quick, easy and affordable to implement, it equips landlords with the oversight and detailed analysis they need to:

  • demonstrate good oversight of stock condition
  • maintain accurate and up-to-date property condition information 
  • work proactively by identifying issues early
  • understand the current condition of tenants’ homes
  • prioritize improvements

There are benefits for tenants, too, including: 

  • improved indoor air quality (IAQ)
  • lower CO2 levels
  • enhanced comfort levels
  • reduced energy bills

Advice for tenants

Social landlords should encourage tenants to: 

  • Keep lids on saucepans when cooking
  • Close bathroom door when bathing
  • Open windows in rooms where washing is drying
  • Use central heating to maintain a constant ambient temperature
  • Promptly wipe condensation off window sills  
  • Move furniture away from outside walls to boost air circulation
  • Boil just enough water required to reduce a kettle’s boiling duration
  • Regularly air their property by opening as many windows as safely possible
  • Consider introducing a dehumidifier
  • Report any increase in condensation  
  • Report any damp odours inside the property
  • Report any black mould spots
  • Report any leaks, watermarks, bubbling pair or peeling wallpaper promptly
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