Agenda item

Damp and Mould -Dacorum Update and Response


MPinnell took the paper as read and provided an overview of the report, noting that the paper deals with housing stock and not the private sector. The paper is written with an honest focus regarding damp and mould and that DBC relies on reports from residents regarding issues across stock. There is currently not a robust governance structure to ensure that properties are revisited and instead there is a reliance on residents to put measures in place. The recommendations and actions plans will ensure DBC is acting proactively rather than waiting for reports to come through. Damp and mould is a national issue and the ability of residents to put their heating on will be greatly reduced during the cost of living crisis, so the team will be working with residents.


Section 2 of the report provides an overview of metrics. In Q1 2021-22, DBC was aware of 88 cases, though cases have not historically been reported as damp and mould. A separate category has now been set up to ensure cases are reported accurately, and in Q1 2022-23, there are 166 live cases with 90-95 that specifically mention mould. When a report is made by a tenant, it goes through a triage system and is still reliant on residents instigating this, and the aim is that once a report is received, a physical visit will be made to the property. The Stock Provision Survey Programme has commenced, of which 3,078 have been completed to date, and this follows a clear process with a surveyor assessing both the inside and outside of the property. Cat 1 and Cat 2 ratings are combined internally as high-risk to ensure there is no separation. Of the 3,078 surveys completed, 84 cases showed visible damp or mould and 6 of these cases were identified as high risk. Some have undergone immediate repairs and others are having replacement windows.


Section 3 focuses on the options available to address damp and mould issues and how these issues are escalated. On the increased agile response, the intention is that this will be delivered by DBC staff to promote ownership and trust back to residents rather than dealing with a contractor. On section 3.3, condensation is likely to be the highest driver of black mould and monitors are being provided to residents to read the level of moisture in the air.


Section 4 lists out recommendations, including the creation of a specialist team with advanced knowledge and self-help. For properties with smaller patches of mould, a kit will be provided to residents to enable people to start to look after their properties better. Section 5 looks at the research project that DBC was involved in that looks at how the climate links back to improving thermal insulation in properties. Section 6 provides revised literature and section 7 provides financial information.


Cllr Oguchi commented on the reason regarding the doubling of reports and asked if this is due to recent news coverage regarding damp. Cllr Oguchi queried if it is feasible for DBC to provide dehumidifiers to residents who are on low incomes or are at high risk as a temporary solution until more permanent measures have been brought in. MPinnell noted that there has been a marked increase in reports following news coverage. On dehumidifiers, MPinnell advised that whilst these are gifted to residents, they are unable to afford to have them plugged in and they are therefore looking into disposable crystal dehumidifiers.


Cllr Adeleke noted the constructive actions being taken and asked if DBC would be receiving any financial support from central government. MPinnell stated that this is unlikely as support will come as an addition to Net Zero as insulating properties will reduce cold spots and compensation.


Cllr Harden commented on the flow chart on page 62 and asked how many of the 88 identified properties are outstanding from the 4 or 20 days chosen. MPinnell stated that it is all 88 properties as getting a damp wash through the Osborne contract is 8 weeks, and therefore the proposal is that DBC has their own operatives to do the damp wash and survey properties. The intention is therefore to attend the property within 2 days and return in a month's time to check if it works. Current lead times need to be improved and MPinnell confirmed that all 88 cases are outstanding.


Cllr Harden referred to a particular case where Osborne attended a property in November, stated they did not have the right equipment and returned in February. Cllr Harden asked if they could provide the crystal dehumidifiers that can be used again once they had been put in the microwave. MPinnell advised that this approach is being developed and that they can look into more economical solutions going forward, though it needs to be understood that this will not solve the problem entirely.


Cllr Harden queried if they could link with external partners to assist people in how to manage their energy bills. NBeresford advised that this links into the cost of living work they are conducting and introduced DSoutham, whose team are delivering a cross-agency cost of living action plan that is internally owned by DBC and receives contributions from voluntary sector partners.


Cllr Pringle acknowledged the importance of monitoring and the cost of tackling mould and asked if they could provide diluted bleach to residents to use whilst a more permanent measure is found. Cllr Pringle noted the development of the app to record incidents and asked if the same recording history will be generated for residents unable to use this. On the app, MPinnell clarified that this is for officers to diagnose cases and ensure that conveyors are being consistent. With regards to using bleach, MPinnell explained that this will only clean off the mould and further products are required to kill the bacteria. MPinnell noted that if they can empower residents to remove the mould then it will help prevent mould spreading further. Products provided need to be safe and also need to be available off the shelf. MPinnell noted that when they are engaging with residents more, they will understand more what approaches work.


Cllr Stevens commented that there is likely an under-reporting of what is taking place and advised that a resident is still awaiting a callback from Osborne from 12 months ago. Cllr Stevens commended the work to bring the service in-house. NBeresford asked that the resident contact the Housing Officer to arrange a tenancy visit and assessment.


Cllr Griffiths stated that information needs to be generally available on the DBC website for all private housing residents and landlords to also use. Cllr Griffiths noted that damp and mould is an issue across society and is not limited to council tenants. NBeresford agreed and noted that there is under-reporting within the private sector.


Cllr Harden asked if there would be enforcement direct to non-local authority housing providers from central government. NBeresford confirmed that the private sector housing team are liaising with the local registered providers and have been asked to provide copies of their responses to regulation. If appropriate action is not taken, an improvement notice will be issued if necessary before DBC looks at enforcement Action. NBeresford advised that engagement with private providers has been positive and that they have advised DBC of the steps they are taking.


Cllr Harden asked if a resident has an issue a housing association that they can go to the local authority. NBeresford explained that there is a dedicated Private Housing Sector mailbox and that issues will be actioned with contact made with both the resident and Asset Management Team at the registered housing association. MPinnell added that the government are also naming and shaming organisations.


Cllr Dhyani queried if there is a provision for ventilation to be added to properties. MPinnell advised that they are unable to take a blanket approach due to differences across properties. As this is a national problem, further products will be brought to the market that can be retrofit relatively cheaply. It was noted that new town housing has ventilation though some have been covered up or taken out.


The Chair noted that solid block dehumidifiers are more effective than the crystals. MPinnell noted the range of products available and the key focus is to ensure that they are also acknowledging lifestyle factors. It was noted that there is also a concern around the use of disposable products.


DSoutham introduced herself to members as the Assistant Director for Place, Communities and Enterprise, noting that her remit includes economic growth and investment as well as place strategies, arts and entertainment, community partnerships and the adventure playground.




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