Following the tragic death of toddler Awaab Ishak and the subsequent coroner’s report in November 2022 into his death, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) asked all larger registered providers of social housing to submit evidence to about the extent of damp and mould in tenants’ homes and their approach to tackling it. This covered local authorities and private providers such as housing associations and in February 2023, RSH published an initial finding report1 from the high-level analysis of the information that was submitted.
In June 2023, RSH then published the research and analysis paper “Damp and mould in social housing – learning the lessons”2. It stated quite clearly that most people living in social housing have homes that are largely free from damp and mould, however yet again, it has taken a disaster for any significant changes to be implemented. These will include new provisions through the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, which will place more responsibilities on landlords to respond to complaints about damp and mould and other hazards quickly and inform their tenants about how to complain, new regulatory inspections being introduced by RSH from April 2024 and a Tenant Satisfaction Measures survey gathering the views of tenants on the services they receive from their landlord, which will be published annually from summer 2024.
I was however surprised to see the report so readily talk about failures and hazards against the Decent Home Standard (DHS)3 and how these are dealt with? Surely failures and hazards should be extremely rare, if happening at all? PPM, forward maintenance planning should be common practice by now and account for the total removal of failures and hazards and, in most cases, reactive maintenance altogether!
Although the numbers of specific damp and mould cases are small across the 4m homes in England in scope of this report, the impact of even one case going unaddressed is clearly disastrous. However, it was clear to me from reading the report that damp and mould is just the beginning. When you read statements like “most providers could strengthen their approach in some areas” and “relied more heavily on reactive approaches to identifying problems than proactively looking for evidence of damp and mould through surveys”, you can see why landlords are being urged to both react faster and fix the underlying issues causing damp and mould, but also other issues too.
The sooner the social housing sector starts thinking of tenants as customers, deserving of the very best service possible, the better.
Some of the recommendations include
- Better governance, including a specific damp and mould policy, better oversight of the stock condition and regular progress reports
- Better stock condition data and systems, including effective survey validation processes and compliance to DHS, specifically including an assessment of category 1 and often category 2 hazards under the HHSRS. It also suggested tenant census and wider data reviews from inputs across the stock
- Better operational approaches to managing damp and mould, including better trained staff (especially for damp and mould), KPIs for response times and follow up visits to ensure damp and mould was completely addressed. This included recommendations for proactive communication and engagement models for reporting issues (incl specifically on damp and mould) using mechanisms such as websites and newsletters.
Given that Landlords already must ensure that DHS compliance is reported through the Statistical Data Return and Local Authority Housing Statistics and accurately reflects current stock condition, I am surprised most of what has been recommended is not in place. As the data would surely point to the existence of these issues already.
Total FM for residential blocks over 18 meters in the private sector is currently ramping up to meet the requirements of the Building Safety Act 20224, specifically the need for a safety case and the Golden Thread of Information; a clear, unbroken chain of digital information about a building’s design, construction, and operation throughout its life cycle. This information must prove the building is safe and compliant, including the efficient maintenance and management of the building.
This requirement is having the desired effect in the private sector. Property Management companies are right now making sure they have asset registers, updated with photographic condition reports, fully scheduled PPMs and forward maintenance plans specifically showing the budgets required by leaseholders and residents for the next 5 years.
It looks as though the Decent Homes Standard is likely to be introduced as a minimum standard enforced within the private sector5 and RSH have previously made regulatory judgements and served regulatory notices where poor stock condition information is a feature and will continue to do so wherever necessary in social housing and presumably the private sector as and when this happens. However, given a much more robust approach already exists, the mechanisms used predominantly for fire safety in high-rise and soon mid-rise buildings could easily be extended and regulated by the Building Safety Regulator.
But for now, Intelligent FS will continue to deliver TFM6 that is dedicated to minimising reactive costs and maximising uptime across all of facilities, with a strong focus on planned preventative maintenance and building safety compliance, including DHS and damp and mould.
About Intelligent FS
We provide nationwide cladding remediation, fire safety and facilities management solutions, combining value, expertise, and trust. With over 60 years’ experience of delivering safety and sustainability for our clients, we are a trusted provider to some of the highest risk buildings in the market.
It is this trusted relationship that led many of our clients to request we extend our services to include a Total FM solution, maintaining the safety and compliance of their buildings into the future.
Now with over 100 buildings being remediated and managed across our service portfolio, within sectors such as Residential Property Management, Manufacturing, Public Sector, Commercial and Social Housing, we are continually growing our national capability and efficiency, attracting new talent, and implementing the latest digital technologies along the way.
We are Golden Thread compliant from the start, and believe resident well-being is central to delivery of excellence whether for cladding remediation or total facilities management. Which is why a resident liaison is provided to all projects.