Damp and mould issues in residential properties have long been a persistent concern for both landlords and residents. These problems not only affect the living conditions but can also pose health and safety risks. Recognising the need for a more innovative and proactive approach, Town & Country Housing Repairs, Fortem and Town & Country Housing joint venture, have improved their process, including the implementation of the Surveyor Cube 4 – MultiDots, a cutting-edge sensor-based system – together they have revolutionised the way damp and mould issues are managed.
Historically, managing damp and mould problems in social housing properties has proven challenging. The conventional approach often placed the responsibility on residents and focused on treating the symptoms rather than addressing the root causes. This approach resulted in a blame culture, making residents hesitant to report issues and, in many cases, exacerbating the problem.
The primary goal of this initiative was to shift the focus from residents to the fabric of the building itself. The aim was to take a proactive approach to address damp and mould problems, improve the living conditions, and alleviate health and safety risks. The decision was made to change the strategy to approach damp and mould issues, and to trial the introduction of Surveyor Cube 4 – MultiDots sensor. The system can be quickly and easily installed, it is a network of sensors installed throughout the property to collect data on humidity, moisture, and temperature readings in various key areas, such as the living room and bathroom.
The implementation of the new damp and mould strategy has involved a series of steps:
1. Specialist team: A damp and mould specialist team have been appointed to specifically deal with properties with damp within the Town & Country Housing portfolio. This team were provided with additional training, including Toolbox talks, so they were equipped to not only deal with the immediate issue of mould, but also to survey properties to understand the wider issues. During property assessment, operatives now conduct a comprehensive property survey including assessing any health and safety risks. This initial step aimed to understand the root causes of damp and mould issues and prioritise immediate health and safety.
2. Operative Skills and Remediation: Operatives were equipped with a range of skills to address minor causes of damp and mould. Preventative steps were initiated, and minor issues were remediated.
3. Approval for Major Works: Operatives are trained to diagnose larger issues requiring extensive work, approval from the client was sought before proceeding. This allowed for more extensive works to be undertaken to address complex problems.
4. Resident Care and Vulnerabilities: Repairs Service Adviser and Customer Service Advisers, were given enhanced training to identify residents with vulnerabilities to ensure they were given priority, and immediate action was taken to alleviate any health and safety risks. They also reviewed historic cases against the property to identify if an issue of ‘damp’ had been reported more than once, therefore prioritising the repair.
5. Changing Resident Perceptions: Town & Country Housing Repairs are introducing a communications plan to encourage residents to report issues without feeling blamed. Operatives and call handlers emphasise that the fabric of the building was the primary concern and not the resident's fault. A "toolbox talk" approach was introduced to Operatives to support them to educate residents about the true causes of damp and mould issues.
6. Data Analysis and Recommendations: Town & Country Housing Repairs are installing £10,000 worth of Surveyor Cube 4 – MultiDots to support the identify of any damp and mould issues. The sensors are installed in a property highlighted for historic damp concerns, or a property of a vulnerable resident. The sensors remain in the property for 12 weeks and then are circulated to a new property. The sensors provide data guided recommendations for remediation to address the root causes effectively, and support Town & Country Housing to develop their asset management plans.
The implementation of the new damp and mould strategy has already started to see benefits. The training undertaken by the call centre staff has equipped them to identify repairs that should be taken as a priority. Recently, the Call Centre observed a resident was coughing whilst reporting a repair, promoting them to book their bathroom job as a priority. When the team arrived at the property it was clear damp and mould was a significant issue in the entire property, not just the bathroom. The team ensured the property was made safe, and then provided recommendations regarding a wider programme of works.
Additionally, Town & Country Housing Repairs actively developing new resident communication plans to support residents during the cold winter months and to encourage the prompt reporting of any damp issues for swift resolution.
There is optimism that, as we transition into Spring, the data collected by utilising the new sensors, enhanced training and specialist teams will all inform the design and implementation of broader asset plans, ultimately leading to a reduction in damp and mould issues.
The project is ongoing, with the goal of installing Surveyor Cube 4 – MultiDots sensors in all targeted properties by spring. The data collected will support Town and Country Housing to develop more informed asset plans, enabling a cost-effective and data-driven approach to damp and mould management. This initiative has been instrumental in revolutionising how damp and mould issues are addressed, emphasising a proactive and resident-centred approach.
“We are thrilled to be collaborating on this project with Fortem Solutions. As a solution provider, our role is to empower Fortem by equipping them with the capability to better understand the full picture within a home. Using advanced AI analytics we are able to use new technology to solve the age-old issue of damp and mould.” Bernard Cook | Managing Director at Vericon Systems