John Moss, Sales Director of Home at EnviroVent, looks at how landlords are being encouraged to take a more proactive approach to condensation and mould growth, following the release of the housing ombudsman’s report on damp and mould.
It’s that time of year when landlords, both private and in social housing, are facing increasing numbers of complaints from residents when levels of relative humidity increase as the temperature outside drops, which can lead to condensation and mould growth in inadequately-ventilated properties.
The housing ombudsman’s report has again raised the very important issue of what needs to be done about damp and mould growth. The report highlights very clearly that landlords should adopt a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould interventions and work much more proactively to overcome any of these problems for residents.
Landlords have long been aware how damp and mould are serious issues if left untreated and many housing associations and local authorities have taken proactive measures to address these. They recognise that these issues are often not caused by residents but there may be other issues which are contributing, for example, the property may have been upgraded with wall and loft insulation or fitted with more thermally-efficient windows and doors, without adequate consideration given to ventilation.
The housing ombudsman’s report gives a series of recommendations about how landlords must tackle the issue of damp and mould. Most of these involve a much more proactive approach to actively manage any ventilation issues now or in the future.
Working with our social housing landlords for over 20 years, we have helped them to introduce ventilation systems that are retrofitted into existing homes. Positive input ventilation (PIV) systems work by delivering clean, fresh, filtered air into the home from a central position. Systems, such as ATMOS, gently ventilate a property and dilute high levels of humidity so that condensation and mould cannot form. This also reduces the level of harmful household contaminants, thus improving indoor air quality and creating a healthy all-yearround living environment.
This latest guidance supports the findings of the ‘Breaking the Mould – should landlords be doing more?’ report (2018) which challenged the traditional assumptions about mould in homes being directly linked to resident behaviour. The study showed that key underlying causes of black mould, such as occupant density and changes to the building fabric, are beyond the control of residents.
The study encouraged social landlords to work proactively to tackle damp and mould. There was found to be a strong correlation between household size and mould – due to more breathing, showering, clothes washing and cooking taking place – and effective ventilation systems are critical in controlling and removing this extra moisture.
Social landlords are, therefore, being challenged to review their mould complaint procedures and to introduce better ventilation into buildings, as well as to improve training for staff to increase understanding of these issues throughout their organisations.
A review of the Decent Homes Standard is still being undertaken by the Government, but the housing ombudsman’s report highlights the fact that ventilation needs to be given priority in the future. No one knows yet what the recommendations of the Decent Homes Review will be, but it is likely that it could have greater focus on mitigating mould, condensation and wider indoor air pollution issues due to their risks to our health and wellbeing. It may also be recommended that continuous mechanical extract ventilation be used more widely in properties to maximise the health and wellbeing of occupants.
The installation of the ventilation systems – for example, with the correct ducting – is just as important as the system itself. There are growing calls for trained ventilation installers to be recognised members of a Competent Person’s scheme. This would be something that we would be very much in favour of, to ensure that not only are energy-efficient, sustainable systems chosen but also that they work in the way they were designed to, through correct installation, for the benefit of all.
Many landlords are already re-thinking their processes and taking a more proactive and preventative approach to improving ventilation across their housing stock and the housing ombudsman’s report on damp and mould should go a long way to raise awareness of this very real issue.
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