The report was presented by Susan Cardozo.
Councillor Redsell said that damp and mould would reappear after a paint job. She pointed out that flats in Blackshots were not built for dryers and that there was nowhere for clothes to dry. She said that the problem was persistent and tenants were moved out but new tenants would also move in and face the same issues. She referred to 3.4 and said that damp and mould could be identified as ‘no area to dry clothes’ and that people could not be blamed.
Councillor Fletcher commented that the service was not explaining the issue to residents properly. He referred to 4.6 and noted that over 500 homes had a reoccurrence of damp and mould. He asked how long a treatment to damp and mould lasted for. He also noted that mould reoccurred in a third of the properties after two years.
Susan Cardozo said that damp and mould issues were identified from repairs data but did not indicate how damp and mould occurred. She said that the consultation for the Blackshots flats was due to end soon. Regarding damp and mould complaints to the service, she said that scripts had been revised to help call centre staff understand the complaints. Training had been provided to Quality Assurance and Tenancy Officers on fuel poverty as well. She went on to say that some properties were older and required more maintenance and the aim was to improve thermal efficiency of buildings that was affordable. Regarding treatments for damp and mould, this was dependent on the cause so the length of time that each one lasted differed but the service needed to address the problem and stop the mould from spreading. Referring to section 5, she said that 4.46% of the housing stock had two or more reoccurrences of mould which was quite low although Councillor Fletcher felt that this was high. She said that the service was focussing on the underlying problems for those properties.
The Chair noted that planning permission had been granted for the cladding to be replaced in some of the Council’s flats and felt that this was ‘a waste’ as the flats could be ‘pulled down’. Susan Cardozo explained that if the consultation was positive, then minimum repair would be carried out before the flats were decanted. She stated that the cladding needed replacing as well as the roofs which were leaking to ensure that residents in the flats were safe.
Councillor Pearce queried the Council’s partner for the ECO. Susan Cardozo explained that there were a number of grants available that the Council could bid on and the Council had bid on the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. She said that there would be another round of funding for ECO in the new year.
The Chair commented that services in the Council were not ‘linking up’ and that more needed to be done. She sought more detail on the new heating system for flats in Chadwell. Susan Cardozo explained that Cabinet had granted approval in March and the system design had taken place since then. The tender process was due to end next week and work would begin as soon as possible. She stated that residents needed to report any repair issues with current storage heaters in the meantime as the new system would not be up and running this winter.
Councillor Fletcher commented that there were issues with cavity wall insulation that had not been carried out well in the past. He asked whether engineers were more experienced in this work now. Susan Cardozo explained that technology had improved since then. She said that where the service was replacing windows in properties now, these included trickle vents for improved ventilation. She said that the service had also started to roll out an external painting programme and were also looking at further external wall insulation programmes to make use of any available eco funding. She also advised the committee that the report had now been released by the Housing Ombudsman on this subject with a number of recommendations and the Housing Service were assessing the current position against these. She offered to bring a report back next year to update on this.
The Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee were invited to comment on the Council’s approach and performance in relation to the management of damp and mould within the housing portfolio.