Report reveals 1,500 Barnet homes hit by damp or mould

Survey of Barnet Council’s housing stock reveals scale of problem, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Barnet Homes manages Barnet Council’s housing stock on behalf of the local authority

More than 1,500 properties owned by Barnet Council are affected by damp or mould, surveys have shown.

A council report states that there are 22 cases of “severe” damp or mould in the local authority’s housing stock, 729 “moderate” cases and a further 827 “slight” cases. Just dealing with the non-severe cases is expected to cost the council around £2million.

Damp and mould problems in homes have come into focus recently following several high-profile incidents around the UK. In October 2021, the Housing Ombudsman urged social landlords to take a “zero tolerance” approach to damp and mould and take responsibility for the problems rather than blaming residents.

Last year, a coroner investigating the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in December 2020 ruled that the toddler died from a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home in Rochdale, which was rented from housing association Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. The Regulator of Social Housing subsequently found significant failings in the way the association treats damp and mould.

An update on damp and mould was presented to Barnet Council’s housing and growth committee on Tuesday setting out the findings of surveys carried out on the borough’s 15,000 council-owned properties, which are managed and maintained by Barnet Homes, which is part of The Barnet Group.

Tim Mulvenna, The Barnet Group’s chief executive, told the meeting that the council’s homes were usually older, less insulated and harder to heat. He added that because of the cost-of-living crisis some residents were leaving heating and extractor fans switched off, meaning cases of damp and mould were on the increase.

“We are in a good position around our data,” Tim explained. “Pretty much 100% of our properties have been looked at in the last year, and we are in a rolling process of reviewing our stock – 20% of our stock each year now, going forward – so we know when the issues arise and we know what needs to be done.”

The report presented to the committee states that maintenance works have been carried out on eleven of the 22 severe mould hazards – which are defined as a failure to meet the government’s decent homes standard – and Barnet Homes aims to complete work on the remaining properties by the end of February.

It adds that the council-owned management company is developing a programme to address the moderate and slight cases – defined as indicating a pass of the decent homes standard but still noted as an issue – which will require “significant additional investment” said to be in the region of £2m.

Barnet Homes is also recruiting “two technical staff, one resident liaison officer and administrative resource” who will make up a team that will manage the current caseload of damp and mould, at a cost of £200,000 per year.

The council’s housing arm has produced an action plan setting out its approach to dealing with damp and mould, which includes training staff, giving advice to residents and carrying out remedial works. It is also conducting a review of the Awaab Ishak case to prevent a similar tragic incident from happening in Barnet.

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