Councillor Clayeon McKenzie, Cabinet Member for Housing Services and Resident Participation, provides an update on Hackney Council’s work to tackle damp and mould

Six months ago the Mayor set out our action plan outlining our commitment to redoubling our efforts to tackling damp and mould.

We are fully aware of the impact damp and mould has on people’s lives and health. This is why we made a clear promise to improve our response to the issue - not just for the benefit of those living in Hackney Council homes, but also those living in the homes of other social landlords or those renting privately across the borough.

Our pledge followed the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from prolonged exposure to mould in his family home in Rochdale, which rightly brought the issue into even sharper focus. 

Damp and mould is an issue impacting all housing providers across the capital and the country as a whole. However, we are not letting that stand in the way of our efforts to ensure you have a safe, warm and decent place to call home.

While there is still much more to do to achieve our ambitions and meet the targets we have set ourselves, we have already made strides towards our goal.

So far under our plan we have:

  • launched a new service in January speeding up our response to reports of leaks - with the target of visiting every leak reported by at least the end of the following day. Since it started, 1,130 emergency leak visits have been carried out in an average of 1.5 days. The number of emergency leaks reported has more than doubled compared to this time last year - and we are working towards ensuring we are able to respond to 80% of all reported leaks within our target from next month, including recruiting more plumbers
  • taken steps to inspect around 75% of reports of damp and mould within our five working days target from next month. Since last year, we have had three times the number of reports of damp and mould and we are carrying out inspections on Saturday mornings and recruiting two new specialist officers to carry out the surveys to help towards achieving the inspection target.
  • reevaluated the priority of all our disrepair cases and reports of damp and mould to prioritise any necessary work, taking account of the severity of each case and the age and health of the people living in the home.
  • finalised plans to survey 20% of our homes this financial year to assess their condition, including specific assessments of damp and mould, prioritising blocks more likely to suffer from the issue.
  • developed plans to boost our in-house repairs team from 159 officers to 170  - including a Disrepair and Damp & Mould Manager - to continue to enhance our overall repairs service.
  • responded to more than 120 reports of damp and mould in privately rented homes since 1 December, with each report acted on within five days and enforcement notices served where the landlords failed to take steps to resolve the issue.
  • invested £400,000 in additional officers to step up the number of inspections in the private rented sector – helping to tackle rogue landlords and ensure those privately renting secure the repairs needed to make their homes safe and free from damp and mould.
  • informed the borough’s Tenant Management Organisations - who manage a third of the Council’s houses - of the priorities in our action plan, and we are setting up a workshop with them to discuss and agree roles and responsibilities in dealing with damp and mould so that no cases fall through the gaps between us.
  • written to all housing associations across Hackney for information on the actions they are taking to tackle mould in their homes, and the Mayor is meeting with the Chief Executives on an ongoing basis to ensure they deliver on these.

Tackling damp and mould is not a one-off promise or campaign - it’s a long term commitment. The steps we have already taken provide a firm foundation for us to continue to build on our work and achieve our ambitions for tackling the issue.

Condensation is a key cause of damp and mould, and there are some simple steps people can take to help reduce its build up and support our efforts to tackle the issue.

  • Keep your home:
    • Clear of moisture - including covering boiling pans when cooking; closing doors to prevent steam escaping into other rooms when cooking, drying clothes, having a bath or shower; and wiping down any areas where there is a build up of moisture.
    • Ventilated - including opening a window or using an extractor fan when cooking or washing; and not blocking air vents.
    • Warm - including using draft proofing to keep heat in your home; and open doors to other rooms to allow the heat to circulate around your home.

If anyone detects a leak, I would urge them to contact the repairs centre on 0208 356 3691 as soon as possible so a visit can be scheduled. If the call is outside of normal office hours it will be dealt with in the same way by the Council’s emergency repairs team.