Islington progress on damp and mould

Housing officers are holding surgeries on council estates in Islington to help sort out problems with mould and damp or disrepairs.

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A mouldy windowsill
Mould on window sill in Barnsbury flat. Photo: LDR/Julia Gregory

Housing officers are holding surgeries on council estates in Islington to help sort out problems with mould and damp or disrepairs.

Islington council’s handling of cases is being investigated by the Housing Ombudsman.

The move, following some high profile cases and the death of toddler Awaab Ishak in Rochdale from respiratory problems caused by poor housing, has led the council to look at the way it deals with cases.

The housing team are updating the housing scrutiny committee on their progress to tackle the problem.

Una O’Halloran, executive member for homes and communities, said the council was keen to monitor if its interventions have worked.

It includes twice weekly meetings looking at the most serious cases with 102 problems currently on its radar.

Residents at 31 homes have called in lawyers to help with their problems and 14 cases are on the Housing Ombudsman’s desk – eight of them were resolved.

The council pledged to follow up cases of mould and damp over the last three years.

Council staff called the 100 households with the highest risk and have commissioned an external company to phone others.

Out of 190 families they spoke to in the last month 174 said damp and mould is still a problem.

Between January 2020 and December 2022 people complained about mould and damp in 14%, or 3,563 of the council’s 36,000 homes. This is higher than the 3% figure across all social housing in England, including homes cared for by housing associations.

In the first month and a half this year alone the council has carried out 1,041 damp and mould surveys, compared with 3,658 cases last year.

The council is planning annual home visits starting this month, which will include a check for damp and mould in every room.

Ian Swift, the director of housing needs and strategy said: “It is a good opportunity to talk to our tenants and ask about any specific concerns they may have.”

Scrutiny committee member Valerie Bossman-Quarshie called for more work on “trying to engaging our residents” to help them know how to get problems sorted out so they don’t resort to “ambulance chasers” who are “targeting vulnerable residents”.

She said there should be more talks for residents “so they know we are on their side.”

Dean Donaghey, a resident member of the committee said he had three leaflets through his door in the last week alone from lawyers seeking to take on cases.

Cllr O’Halloran said she heard the calls for the council to be proactive in making sure its tenants get in touch and get housing problems fixed.

Scrutiny chair Jason Jackson said it was essential people can get through on the phone to get things right and in the past residents reported problems.

The council is updating its phone system in the autumn.

In November lat year, housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa highlighted two serious cases of mould or damp. The council said it fixed a leaking room the same week and moved the other family and has offered them permanent homes.

The Housing Ombudsman’s investigation follows four cases where it said there was maladministration in the way the council handled them.

As part of its response to the ombudsman’s investigation the council has reorganised its customer complaints and enquiries team handling queries from councillors.

It hopes this will mean residents get a “seamless” service.

People can also meet the Housing Ombudsman at an event at the council chamber on Upper Street on Thursday March 30.

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