Report from the Strategic Director for Adult Care, Housing and Health.
1. Approves the specific Damp, Mould and Condensation Policy.
2. Delegates authority to the Assistant Director of Housing, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing, to alter the Policy to bring it into line with forthcoming new legal time limits for social landlords to address damp and mould, if required.
Consideration was given to the report which explained the policy set out the Council’s approach to supporting residents prevent, identify and deal with damp, mould and condensation in their homes. It also set out the Council’s responsibilities both as a landlord for 20,000 households and as the enforcement body for private sector housing.
Damp and mould were unpleasant and unattractive, but it could also be extremely harmful to health and wellbeing. It could trigger respiratory infections and worsen asthma and allergic conditions and in the most serious cases it could lead to serious illness or even sadly death.
This issue was brought into focus a couple of years ago now, following the coroner’s report into the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who lived with his parents in a housing association home in Rochdale. The report found the cause of death was a severe respiratory condition cause by the presence of mould in the home. The property had inadequate ventilation and was not equipped for normal day to day activities which led to excess damp and mould and the landlord placed too much emphasis on the parent’s lifestyle, which was the landlord’s term, and were too slow to implement remedial works.
Sadly, the Ombudsman had noted that those sorts of practices were not isolated to that landlord, that it had dealt with hundreds of maladministration complaints over the years and while there were a range of factors at play, a common theme was the issue of culture and lack of clear expectations on landlords. Too often landlords were jumping to blaming tenants, instead of recognising the root causes which might include poor energy efficiency, structural issues, lack of outside space to dry washing or fuel poverty.
In Rotherham, all reports of damp and mould were taken seriously, and the Council aspired to adopt a zero-tolerance approach. Since 2017 the Council had invested over £14m in everything from mould treatment work to damp proofing through to extractor fan installations and insulation programmes. It also had an active programme of inspections for private sector housing. This was not a new approach but there had been a significant increase over the last couple of years.
The policy would include a set of principles to guide all the work, as well as detailed procedures for dealing with issues when they arose. The regulations in this area were evolving so the report also sought a delegation to enable small changes to be made as regulations were issues enabling the Council to react quickly as a landlord and as an enforcement body.
The draft policy was consulted upon with residents, including the Housing Involvement Panel and members of the Rotherham Strategic Housing Forum. Landlords were also consulted, and the draft policy was considered by the Improving Places Select Commission with their comments being included.
Councillor Cusworth welcomed the separation of the policies, and clarification was sought as to whether partners in housing associations and other organisations were as dedicated to mitigating this?
The Assistant Director, Housing believed they were, and all social landlords had been asked to develop their own policy for their properties. There would be some minimum regulations that applied to everyone however the Council had also tried to incorporate what they wanted to do for private tenants. The Strategic Housing Forum would be used as a mechanism for monitoring.
Resolved: That Cabinet:
1. Approved the specific Damp, Mould and Condensation Policy.
2. Delegated authority to the Assistant Director of Housing, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing, to alter the Policy to bring it into line with forthcoming new legal time limits for social landlords to address damp and mould, if required.