Under the new Housing Ombudsman Scheme, we can conduct investigations into potential systemic and thematic issues. In March 2021 we published our systemic framework setting out how we will look beyond individual disputes to identify key issues that impact on residents and landlords’ services. The framework allows us to issue a call for evidence and the Ombudsman has decided to use this for the first time to support a thematic investigation into damp and mould issues.
An initial review of our case data has identified that damp and mould feature significantly in our work. During the last two years we have considered 112 cases in our formal remit, with a maladministration rate of 55 per cent. Compensation levels in some cases have been relatively high, with a total of £68,000 ordered in the same period, alongside other remedies, indicating a significant impact on residents in some cases.
Damp and mould can have a particularly significant impact on vulnerable residents and those with respiratory problems. This investigation follows on from our heating and hot water report and examines another aspect of our casebook that is fundamental to living in a decent home.
We are calling for evidence submissions, from both member landlords and their residents, but also from social housing professionals who feel they can contribute relevant evidence, to ensure that we are able to make far-reaching recommendations that promote greater understanding of the complexity of tackling damp and mould and that share best practice across the sector – helping landlords to develop their policies and procedures with a view to improving the experience of all residents.
Our call for evidence is asking five questions, along with collecting some basic geographic and demographic data to allow us to report on any regional variation and/or variation within the types of housing or particular relationship with a landlord. We will take our initial findings to our Resident Panel for their views and will conduct a round table discussion with a selection of landlords with a view to publishing our report in the autumn. We may wish to follow up on particular responses for more information, so will ask you to volunteer contact details if you are happy for us to get in touch about your response.
The five questions are:
1. What do you consider to be the main cause(s) of damp and mould?
2. Are the root causes of damp and mould difficult to identify? And if so, why?
3. Are the root causes of damp and mould difficult to address? And if so, why?
4. While damp and mould issues are being looked into, what support is offered to residents to ensure they are able to live in a hygienic environment?
5. Has a particular damp and mould situation led to significant changes in the way in which a landlord operates? If so, please provide details.
The call for evidence closed on Friday 4 June 2021.
We want our inquiries to be informed by a diverse range of voices. Our investigation team are happy to help if you require a reasonable adjustment, such as an extension to the deadline, or submitting evidence in an alternative format. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0300 111 3000.
It is important to stress that this investigation is looking at the broad issues of damp and mould across the sector; it is not looking at individual landlords and will not respond to individual complaints. Information on how to make a complaint can be found here.
If you are a resident and would like to submit evidence but are unsure if you landlord is a member of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, you can check here before continuing.