Updated: 29 Nov @ 9:20am
In May 2022, Folkestone & Hythe District Council introduced a Housing repair & maintenance policy which includes damp and mould . It states the Council will not carry out remedial works on properties until improvements are made by the tenant.
The Council’s Housing Repairs and Maintenance Policy with regards to damp and mould states at page 16:
28 Damp and Mould
28.1 The main cause of mould in homes is insufficient heating, lack of ventilation and lifestyle issues; this comes at a great financial cost to the Council as a landlord.
28.2 Where we have identified that condensation is the cause of reported damp and mould, information and advice will be provided to the tenant and remedial work will not be carried out until improvements are made by the tenant. This will be monitored by the tenant’s neighbourhood officer.
28.3 Where rising and/or penetrating damp has been identified as being caused by structural issues, e.g. through a defective damp course, a leaking pipe or waste overflow, or rain seeping through the roof where tiles are missing, we will first secure a correct diagnosis before repair work is agreed.
So tenants must carry out remedial works as per 28.2. And as for 28.3, well that allows the problem to continue and for things to get worse, before they get better. With this policy is it any wonder there is a “great financial cost to the Council as a landlord.”
All too often landlords, be they social, or private landlords blame tenants for condensation which can lead to mould and damp. More often than not, they claim tenants are not ventilating the properties they rent; and it’s they, the tenant who are at fault for the condensation; which is causing the mould. This was so in the Awaal Ishak case very recently.
In an update, a Council contractor has said the following regarding damp and mould they have seen in Folkestone & Hythe District Council owned properties
“Most landlords including FHDC will tend to blame the issue on condensation created by the tenants, however this is most often not the case. Most cases of damp and mould we see (75%), is due to a lack of maintenance by the landlord.”
Condensation is most common in the colder months. This is the most important time to ventilate your property. The Council state in their Condensation Policy
• Ventilate bedrooms by leaving a window slightly open at night if it is safe to do so.
• Do not block air vents.
• Open windows slightly for at least 15-20 minutes each day on both sides of your
home to help air circulate.
• Condensation is most common in the colder months. This is the most important time
to ventilate your property.
• Make sure your home is heated adequately.
• It is effective to keep your home at a constant temperature all day. This will help
raise the internal temperature of surfaces and reduce condensation forming.
But one has to remember we are in a cost of living crisis and heating costs have grown astronomically and for those on low incomes, there is a real choice between heating and eating. Furthermore, we made it clear in August, there are 16,198 households in the district which are in “energy crisis hotspots”, where these households are at greatest risk of serious financial hardship as a result of unaffordable energy costs. This is equivalent to almost one in three households who will have substantial difficult heating their homes, due to their low incomes.
But back to the Repairs & Maintenancy policy. Please take a very, very deep breath. Who in Folkestone & Hythe District Council came up with this ‘policy’? It is nonsense. It is harmful for both the tenant and the landlord. There is no, zero, nada requirement for the Council as the landlord to hold off on works until they are agreed with the tenant (what if the tenant is not in a position financially to undertake the works, must they, and the property suffer?) From the Council’s’s position, it actually makes sense to do the bloody works as quickly as possible, both to minimise the damages period, and to reduce the chances of a disrepair claim being issued against them. It also makes sense for a landlord that actually, hypothetically, putatively cares about its tenants’ living conditions to sort things out as quickly as possible. And let’s not forget the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010.
So, legally and objectively, this is a damn stupid policy, and one that would have the potential (as played out in the Awaab Ishak tradegy) to cause harm which is real, actual and of substance. Any other landlord having a similar policy should reconsider it immediately (and get proper legal advice).
Let’s not forget Communities secretary Michael Gove has written to providers of social housing warning they must do more to improve conditions. In his letter he said ‘we must raise the bar dramatically on the quality of social housing’ available in the wake of the death of two year-old Awaab Ishak. He said the Coroner’s report & the Reg 28 report into Awaab’s death was a ‘litany of failure’ and that he expected housing providers to ‘read it in full and absorb its lessons’. Mr Gove wrote: ‘Where people complain about damp and mould, you must listen; where you find them, you must take prompt action.’
Let’s hope any Cllr who has Council housing in their ward will actually raise the issue of the bad repair and maintenance policy – especially with regards to damp and mould – and get the Council to rectify it as soon as policy.
We are sure neither Cllrs, or the Council wish to have a tradegy on their hands like Awaal Ishak, now or in the future.
The Shepwayvox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime