Part 5: Damp & Mould – “It’s not lifestyle”

He’s a keen amateur painter, but ever since, the issue of damp and mould in his home, he has been unable to paint, partly because the issue has affected his wellbeing, and because, the canvases he paints on get covered in mould, ruining his pictures.

Mark is a dad. At weekends, and during the week his son slept over, but now due to the damp and mould affecting his, and his son’s health, the sleep overs have stopped. Mark has medical evidence the issue is affecting them both. The very fact his son has been hospitalized due to  acute airway oedema caused by environmental mould exposure, while at Mark’s flat, has him deeply concerned as a father.

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All the images were taken in first week of Dec 2022, six months after the alleged repairs. There are many many more which show a greater state of disrepair.

The very fact Mark and his sons circumstances are so similar to those of the two year old toddler Awaab Ishak, who died in a home owned by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, has led to sleepless nights and stress at levels harmful to Mark.

Mark’s GP has requested he take a sputum test which can detect environmental mould exposure  on the lungs and in the airways.

But let’s back up. Let’s start at the beginning, so we understand how Mark has got to where he is.

Mark moved into the property at Etchinghill in May 2020. Within weeks of moving in the issue of damp and mould was evident. Mark informed the council, but they told him it was his “lifestyle” which was causing the issues. Open the windows, hang clothes outdoors to dry etc. Mark was doing all these things, and his lifestyle was not excessive.

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

A friend suggested he contact Cllr David Godfrey (Con) Cabinet Member for Housing. This he did and things began to move. Mears came out and did some repairs to the outside and inside of the building. The image below is the outside of Mark’s property after being fixed allegedly and also the inside weeks after the alleged fix.

Alas the repairs undertaken by Mears has not stopped the damp, or mould.

On the BBC Politics South East show at 10am, tomorrow they’ll discuss the issue of Damp & Mould in people’s homes in our region. One of the tenants they visited to film was Mark. He has lived with damp and mould for 31 months, detrimently affecting his, and his son’s health. We are proud to have assisted Mark to air his story, to give it the oxygen of publicity it needed.

We are proud of all the tenants we helped engage and participate with the BBC, to tell their stories about living with damp and mould. Some stories will air this month, others next, but these are stories which need to be told.

What each story illuminates is the Council’s Corporate Director for Housing & Operations – Andy Blaszkowicz, is not able to carry out the responsibilities of his post, economically, efficiently and effectively. He should in our honest opinion be relieved of his housing responsibilities.

As a registered housing provider, Folkestone & Hythe District Council is required to comply with the Regulator of Social Housing standards, including the Home Standard and the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard.

The Home Standard requires registered providers to ensure that tenants’ homes meet the standard set out in section five of the Government’s Decent Homes Guidance and to provide a cost-effective repairs and maintenance service that responds to the needs of tenants.

All the council tenants who engaged with us have told their story to the Regulator of Social Housing. They’ve provided photographic, video, medical letters from GPs, Hospitals and Health Visitors and, they’ve pointed out the Housing planned maintenance contracts which are supposed to deal with issues such as damp and mould  found “significant weaknesses evident around management oversight and review of work undertaken by officers in the Planned Maintenance department.”

For those of you who are not aware, the Council do not do repairs to their council properties. They outsourced this in Nov 2009, after awarding it to Morrison Facility Services Ltd. The contract for responsive repairs and maintenance of their residential properties begun on 1 April 2010. In Nov 2012 , Mears bought out Morrison. The contract end date for the responsive repairs and maintenance of our Council’s residential properties is 6 April 2023.

The estimated total value of the contract was £40m. However, between April 2011 & Sept 2022, the total amount paid out on the responsive repairs and maintenance of residential properties owned the Council is £49.2m. Add in the year 2010/11, and the six months from Oct 2022 to March 2023, the contract will have cost in excess of £53m. This is 32.5% more than the estimated value of the £40m contract.

Are Mears value for money?

Given it has been reported elsewhere that Mears has been accused of poor workmanship, and overcharging, perhaps signing such a long-term contract with them, whereby they do not have to tender for each project, has lead to many problems for Councils and tenants alike. You can mull that over sound in the knowledge the contract value excess will be 32.5%.

We are certain Mark thinks he did not get value for money, given the level of repairs they undertook on his property. The very fact the issues have returned demonstrates either poor workmanship, or a failure to identify the true cause of the damp and mould.

Given the attention on the issue, plus the BBC contacting the Council, we now understand a Council Chartered Surveyor will be visiting the property on the 20 Dec.

Let’s hope the Council will see sense and put right all the issues relating to Damp & Mould and that Mark, like the rest of us, can have a healthy and propserous 2023.

The Shepway Vox Team

The Velvet Voices of Voxatiousness


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2 Comments on Part 5: Damp & Mould – “It’s not lifestyle”

  1. As a tenant in another Kent district, Mears are our Council’s repairs contractor.

    Five times they’ve come to fit a new washer to a tap in my bathroom. On each occasion they’ve had the wrong washer, the wrong tool, or the right type of excuse, not to do the job.

    The washer still hasn’t been fitted four months after reporting it. I am though aware they’ve billed my council five times, even though no work has been done.

    You ask if Mears are value for money?

    In my personal experience as a Council tenant, most certainly not.

  2. If Mears do not represent value for money, Blaszkowicz most certainly doesn’t! How many scandals has he presided over in recent years? He must be sharing the Teflon coat worn by Susan Priest. They both need to be removed – highly paid public servants who are completely useless!

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