HUNDREDS of council house tenants were awaiting inspection for damp and mould at the end of last year, shocking new figures have revealed.
Following the death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale, media coverage saw more than 200 extra calls to Berneslai Homes and the council to inspect properties.
In November 2022, further to the publication of the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of the youngster, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Regulator of Social Housing called upon local authorities, under powers of the Housing Act 2004, to provide information relating to damp and mould issues within both the social and private housing sectors and details of plans to address them.
Barnsley Council has already responded to them to advise they have received the request and will be working to provide all required information and assurance relating to private rented stock by January 27.
New figures have shown that as of November 30, there were 562 live requests from tenants relating to damp, condensation or mould which were waiting inspection.
A council report added: “It should be noted that this figure has significantly increased over the last few weeks due to heightened emphasis in the media and Berneslai Homes’ proactive campaign to encourage tenants to report issues.
“The target to inspect jobs of this nature in line with the Property Repairs and Improvement Programme (PRIP) is 28 days.
“Following inspection, orders are raised on an emergency (24-hour), three, seven or 25-day order as part of responsive repair works or as a capital planned programme, depending on the remedy required.”
Berneslai Homes has now started an immediate inspection regime, which runs seven days a week and 24 hours a day if resourcing allows, bringing in additional resource to undertake the inspections and an external damp and mould specialist (Qest) to assist further with inspections.
The new procedure will ensure that any category one hazard jobs are completed within 24 hours.
The report added: “There are currently 55 disrepairs cases, 48 of which relate to damp, mould, and condensation in some way.
“Irrespective of the legal process, Berneslai Homes always seek to arrange access to the property to engage with tenants and to complete any outstanding works, as required.
“To ensure that the council has effective governance, Berneslai Homes will provide a tracker report on damp and mould repair cases as part of the compliance dashboard which is updated monthly.
“This should include a detailed programme of proactive planned inspections to properties which may be at greater risk of damp and mould issues.
“Berneslai Homes will also launch a task force this month to oversee and monitor the approach and actions in relation to damp and mould.
“There are currently 16 informal and formal complaints relating to damp, mould, and condensation.
“Berneslai Homes’ teams are working with the customers to find resolutions and works orders will be raised, where required.
“Sixteen complaints equate to 0.08 per cent of all tenancies.”
The report will be discussed at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.
Arturo Gulla, Director of Property Services at Berneslai Homes, said: “Keeping tenants safe is our main priority and we have procedures in place to deal with damp and mould. We’ve recently worked closely with tenants to produce together a robust action plan which sets out what we’re doing to tackle the causes of damp and mould, and how we respond to instances that have progressed and require repair.
“We have a rolling programme of works for our housing stock to maintain all homes to a decent standard and we encourage tenants to report any concerns to our repairs hotline on 01226 787878. Our frontline staff have also received training so that they can spot the signs of damp and mould and report it. Once reported, we assess each case, taking into consideration the severity of the problem and the potential impact on the household. We give emergency/urgent priority to repairs that put anyone’s safety, security, or health at risk. We’ll continue to treat damp and mould requests as priority inspections, and to reassure our tenants further we’re working towards completing high priority jobs within 24 hours and have brought in an external damp and mould specialist to help meet this increased demand.”