Private Rented Sector: Damp & Mould: “It’s not lifestyle”

The similarities in this case of damp and mould are so striking to the one which took the life of the two year old Awaal Ishak, we just had to write about it.

Tina is a mum with two young children, both of these children have been hospitalized due to issues caused by damp and mould in her privately rented flat.

Her flat was on the market for two years before she was placed there after coming from temporary accommodation. She moved to the property in the summer of 2019. The damp and mould was not to be seen, as it had been cleaned away.

Within weeks, of her moving in, the damp & mould was back, and yes she cleaned it, yes she opened her windows, but this was not sufficient. Of course, the usual excuse of blaming the tenant was rolled out. She was blamed for not opening the windows, when drying clothes, cooking taking a shower/bath. But the issue was not Tina’s lifestyle.

The “…most common mistake is assuming that condensation will be resolved by adjusting heating, ventilation, or ‘atmospheric moisture input’ – this serves to focus blame on the tenant or their ‘lifestyle’.”

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health

As the damp and mould continued both of Tina’s children were hospitalized due to the issue. This brought Tina into contact with a health visitor, who saw first hand the issues her family were suffering. This led to a letter from the Health Visitor and her GP being issued and raised  with the council, who asked the landlord to create more ventilation in the property. He did this by putting in a vent in the front wall with a grill cover like the one pictured.  But this has not stopped the issue. She does all she can to air the building, but her children have again been hospitalized by the ongoing issue of damp and mould in her privately rented property. Even after a letter from the hospital consultant, which makes it clear, the children’s hospitalization was due to damp and mould in her property, the Council’s Environmental Health team do not believe that it is sufficient for them to do anything about Tina’s situation. And so she and her children remain in a home which possibly does not meet the decent homes standard.

When we visited Tina, we saw evidence of ventilation in her front room, and moisture absorbers dotted around her home. All the windows were open and it was a warm day, yet the evidence of damp on her walls in Tina’s bedroom was undeniable. So much so, that water was literally running down the back wall.

Tina is not alone in living with damp and mould which is placing her children at substantial risk. We have heard from more than forty more tenants in private accommodation, who are also suffering with substantial issues of damp and mould in there rented homes. The risk to their childrens lives is so substantial it cannot sensibly be ignored having regard to the nature and gravity of the feared harm in this particular case.

At full Council Cllr David Godfrey (Con) Cabinet Member for Housing & Special Projects, was asked a question by Cllr Rebecca Shoob (Green), about damp and mould in the private rented sector.  Her question was:

How long do tenants in the private rented sector need to wait for a council inspection to assess mould, damp or other landlord disrepair?

His response was as follows:

Which most certainly did not answer the question, leaving nobody any the wiser. So a bit later on Cllr Laura Davison (Lab) asks Cllr David Godfrey, a not to dissimilar question and gets more of a response.

Now as Cllr Godfrey makes clear in his response, between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2022, sixty eight properties were identified as having issues of damp and mould, and seven landlords were issued with enforcement actions to improve the properties with regards to damp and mould.  He responds to Cllr Davison’s supplementary question, by making it clear there is no report which needs to be made available regarding the call from the Regulator of Social Housing regarding damp and mould, from all councils.

Here in blue – below – is the letter the Regulator of Social Housing sent to all Council Chief Executives requesting information on damp and mould, on the 22 Nov.

Letter to Chief Executives of Registered Providers of Social Housing on damp & mould

What Cllr Godfrey is saying, is he is not aware of any information the council might have to publish. We ask why the Council will not publish and report/information they will send to the regulator, regarding damp and mould in their properties? You can mull that over.

Meanwhile, tenants like Tina, and her children, who live in private rented accommodation and those living in Council homes, must continue to live in sub standard properties. The continue to live with issues of damp and mould; which put them and their childrens lives at substantial risk. Things must change as everyone deserves to live in a decent home

If you live in the private rented sector and suffer from damp and mould you can contact the following:

Your landlord

The Environmental Health Team – at the Council

TNA Solicitors – as mould and damp is a disrepair issue and you my be eligible under legal aid

The Citizens Advice Bureau

Your local Cllr

Please note the name of the tenant has been changed to protect their identity.

The Shepway Vox Team

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4 Comments on Private Rented Sector: Damp & Mould: “It’s not lifestyle”

  1. We have friends who lived in council accommodation in Old Romney for over 30 years, both disabled, who regularly used a dehumidifier. A towel would be rung out daily with water, sometimes much more was collected in a bowl.
    Another friend caught a lung infection from damp accommodation, has breathing difficulties and does not expect to be cured, an ailment that has been with her for perhaps a decade or more.
    Wether or not relevant, it is interesting to note that Shepway pushed ahead with housing on marshland with a water table that frequently reaches within 6 inches of the surface and sometimes floods across these areas, continuously approving construction sites despite many warnings from local people regarding the dangers of such issues, over many years.

  2. While FHDC are under pressure from central government to provide housing, if they fail to meet quoted requirements, the task can be removed, resulting in a greater amount of construction in our area, apparently from central government
    Nevertheless, government apparently sees green grass, not water soaked ground, which suggests they may almost plan housing over lakes or even the sea, given the current procedures: damp ingress potential might appear obvious, and yet, damp problems are also becoming highlighted in drier areas.
    One might be forgiven thinking FHDC have created a rod for their own back, but not necessarily so; it seems, a councilor, or staff member, responsible for criminal irresponsibility, may be individually charged, bearing defence costs personally. While council as a whole comes under watchful eyes, individual misbehaviour or irresponsibility seems vulnerable to singular prosecution.
    Protection from a collective, it seems not.
    A matter to which everyone in The Chamber, might be wise, to note.

  3. Martello Lakes, and probably Princes Parade are both below high-tide sea level, therefore damp will be a predominant problem especially during the winter months. Will buyers be advised of this problem, or will profit prevail?

    • Martello Lakes issues were highlighted during public consultation, water levels were part of the warnings, along with unrecorded dumping and suspect asbestos dumping claims from various sources.( It may be noted that the lake was closed to fishing earlier this year due to fish stock deaths, explained away as might be Blue green algae levels, apparently never confirmed).Warnings regarding potential future problems raised by local residents with building houses at the site were directly delivered by the late John Meek, a man frequently frustrated by Shepway’s irregular responses, (if at all) yet campaigning on behalf of local people until his death.
      The question is, and always has been, will the people who bought properties on land that results in damage due to water ingress, and/or health issues, be able to claim compensation, considering there were many warnings, over a long time period, to Shepway, from locals, about unsuitability of land then proposed for development. Further more, building continues daily where such warnings have been clearly and undeniably stated.

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