Like an artist’s afterthought on a brick canvas, the stains make clear there are serious issues with Council owned homes. It can be seen on properties in New Romney, Dymchurch, Burmarsh, Hythe, Folkestone, Sellindge, Etchinghill and Lyminge. It looks like this – see left.
But what is it?
It is technically called Efflorescence. Put into layman’s terms, it is the product of having water in your walls and causes damp.
The two types of damp that are responsible for the emergence of efflorescence are rising damp and penetrating damp.
Rising damp is a problem that stems from water entering your properties walls through capillary action. This is usually down to a build up of liquid around the base of the wall and in the ground surrounding a property, combined with the failure of a properties damp defence measures – most commonly a damp proof course being ineffective.
Rising damp is usually limited when it comes to spreading through a property’s walls to about one metre above ground level – but, it can still have a devastating effect on a property despite its limited spread.
Penetrating damp is entirely down to water entering a property thanks to faults in the properties design. This could mean a cavity wall tie failure has exposed the walls to weathering, bad pointing, overflowing drains causing consistent and heavy overflows– the list goes on.
Penetrating damp is more devastating when it comes to damp-based issues because if left unchecked, as in this case and many others, the initial fault in the property, that allowed for the penetrating damp to set in could spreads, and allows the damp to take a stronger hold on the property. Penetrating damp is commonly found where the property is poorly maintained.
At many of the Council owned properties we visited, we saw the dire effects of penetrating damp. Below is an image of just one of the properties we visited and found the outside wall had been seriously affected by Efflorescence.
This has caused the wall to become so wet, it is seriously and detrimentally affecting the interior wall and causing mould, as can be seen in the image below. This particular property has a suspended wooden floor sitting on joists, these too have become wet and rot has set in causing further issues.
We know that many council properties have been poorly maintained from 2011, when East Kent Housing came into being. This continued until it met its demise on 30 Sept 2020. Since then the council have focused on what they see as the most pressing issues, and penetrating damp and rising damp have not been deemed pressing issues.
Penetrating damp and rising damp are NOT issues caused by the tenant. Rather they are a lack of maintenance and investment by the Council into the properties they own.
Again on the other side of the same building one can see the effects of the penetrating damp; which has led to black mould. This type of mould can lead to health issues for people living within the property. This is the type of mould which killed Awaab Ishak. This mould, pictured below, is having a significant impact on the tenant who currently occupies the council owned property.
Further examples of penetrating damp can be seen at Rowan Court. The damp and the green growth one can see on the building has been there since we last visited three years and four months ago.
This form of dampness is as we said, caused predominately by lack of property maintenance. Again the mould caused by the penetrating damp is affecting the tenants health and wellbeing, who occupy the properties.
It is clear that there are serious issues of both penetrating damp and rising damp in Council owned properties from Lydd to Lyminge. This is caused by structural leakage. As such, it is the Council’s legal responsibility to put it right.
Under section 10 of The Landlord & Tenants Act 1985 as amended, ventilation and freedom from damp are now listed as hazards that determine whether a rental property is unfit for human habitation.
Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, it is the Council’s sole responsibility to resolve these issues for leaseholders, caused by their lack of property maintenance.
Also under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018; which included an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, allows tenants to apply to the court if they believe their council, or privately rented home, is “unfit for human habitation”; which it would be if excessive damp caused by penetrating or rising damp are causing significant mould problems. In a good number of council properties we visited, this is the case.
The Council is obliged under law to ensure their properties are kept in an adequate state of repair throughout the duration of the tenancy.
If you have issues with damp or mould in a Council property, or a privately owned property, legal aid is available. Locally, TNA Solicitors deal with housing disrepair issues; which damp and mould amounts to.
Also do contact you landlord as soon as possible, with photographic evidence where possible.
One can contact
The Regulator of Social Housing (with images)
The Housing Ombudsman who said in his report in October 2021, on damp and mould – titled- “It’s not lifestyle” – because of the dismissive, stigmatising and sometimes discriminatory way too many reports of mould have been dealt with by social landlords, like our Council, tenants give up. The ombudsman report was not only about systems and services, it was about attitude.
and of course you can contact your local Councillor
The contents of this blogpost do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only. Users should seek appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action based on the content of the blogpost or otherwise. If you require specific legal advice you should contact a specialist lawyer.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful