Over the past eighteen months, damp surveys in Kent have witnessed a staggering surge, with a notable 147% uptick. The North Kent Health Trust’s recent report disclosed that December 2023 saw a remarkable 831 PDA® approved surveys, a substantial leap from the 179 conducted in June 2022. This surge in survey numbers follows reports from Thanet Council, where instances of damp and mould have tripled, particularly in the aftermath of the investigation into the tragic death of Grace Nequatto in February 2023. The fourteen-year-old succumbed to prolonged exposure to ingress in a Margate-based Home of Multiple Occupancy (HMO).
Various councils have responded to this escalating issue by devising damp and mould action plans, alongside establishing dedicated teams and taskforces. Notably, the Housing Ombudsman initiated a special investigation into Thanet Council in June 2023, focusing on its inadequate handling of damp and mould reports and subsequent complaints. The investigation revealed deficiencies in record-keeping, consistent communication lapses, and an unresponsive approach to complaints, leading to the ombudsman ordering the council to pay £69,000 in compensation to affected residents.
Kwamei Beko, spokesperson for the watchdog, emphasised the significance of prioritising damp problems over relatively trivial concerns like hurt feelings and emotional stress within our society. The report coincides with the one-year anniversary of Thanet Council’s introduction of a damp, condensation, and mould program. The document indicates a substantial surge in demand for damp surveys over the past three years, exerting additional pressure on council services and resources, affecting individuals and families residing in homes with these conditions.
In the Medway towns of Strood, Rochester, Chatham, and Gillingham, the number of damp surveys more than doubled from November 2022 to November 2023. Consequently, the independent damp control business Rochester Building and Damp reported a notable increase in annual survey bookings, soaring from 621 to 968 in a single year. The report highlights that a damp living environment is extremely hazardous to health, and there has clearly been a massive escalation in reported cases.
Acknowledging the severity of the situation, calls are being made for councils across the UK to revisit their repairs policies, incorporating damp, condensation, and mould issues. Greenwich Council, for instance, has implemented an enhanced and clarified damp and mould process, subjecting all completed work to formal reviews to gauge the effectiveness of interventions. The council has also embarked on voluntary inspections on tenanted as well as privately owned property, identifying damp and mould, their root causes, and other issues, in an attempt to gauge the full scale of the issue. Additionally, Greenwich Council has proactively launched a free program to test the performance of boilers in private as well as rented property in the area. The council has also initiated an extensive training program on damp and mould and is collaborating with University College London on a research study focusing on net zero and damp and mould. Afua Bamidele, supervisor for The Community Health Team at Greenwich Council, affirmed their commitment to ensuring a damp and mould-free living environment for everyone in the area, pledging significant improvements. Afua continued “We hope our newly implemented measures will be taken up by other Councils in the Kent area such as Medway, Dartford, Maidstone and Gravesham.”