Two South London councils among worst five landlords in England for damp and mould

Two South London councils have been listed among the worst landlords in England for dealing with damp and mould.

A report by the housing ombudsman has revealed Hammersmith and Fulham council is the landlord with the highest rate of mismanagement in damp and mould cases in England.

Lambeth and Southwark councils are also listed among the worst five.

The investigation found that residents were frustrated, felt that they were not being listened to and their complaints were not being taken seriously.

Housing ombudsman Richard Blakeway said: “Throughout our investigation, the distress and disruption experienced by residents living with damp and mould was evident. 

“These are conditions that no one working in social housing wants to see. Our high maladministration rate shows that a fairer approach is needed.”

A family of four including a 66-year-old stroke survivor were among those left to live in damp and mouldy conditions by Lambeth council.

The McManus family were moved into temporary accommodation in Saxby Road, Brixton, in June this year.

The housing was rife with mould and damp which made it hard for the family to breathe.

But they were forced to live in the house for over a month before the council acted.

Marie McManus, 36, told the South London Press at the time: “I’m beginning to feel like our lives really do not matter at all.

“I feel completely devastated by a local authority who is supposed to have a duty of care to their tenants, and clearly they just do not give a damn.

“I want them to get their heads out and realise we are a family that is vulnerable, you have put us through this for twenty years.”

Lambeth council said at the time they were in the process of improving the situation, with a mould wash and redecoration carried out and had plans to address the guttering. The family was also offered a three-bedroom house.

One issue raised in the report was that residents were “systematically” blamed for damp and mould in their homes and made to feel like the problem was their responsibility, not the landlord’s.

Another problem raised was that complaints were not handled well.

At Southwark council, every single complaint investigated by the ombudsman were found to have been handled poorly.

Two thirds of complaints sent to Lambeth council were found to have been handled badly as well as 57 per cent of complaints sent to Hammersmith and Fulham council.

The report also highlighted that some residents may give up reporting issues to their landlord when they no longer feel they can trust them.

The housing ombudsman has recommended that landlords should take a zero-tolerance policy to damp and mould.

He said: “This does not mean zero cases, but it does mean less fatalism, which can sometimes result in a loss of empathy. 

“It is clear many landlords are reacting to residents rather than proactively reviewing the homes and buildings they manage or lease. 

“Landlords should be on the front foot identifying potential issues which, given the age of some social housing, are likely to be more extensive than we have seen. “

Hammersmith and Fulham council had a maladministration rate for cases of damp and mould of 10.8 per 10,000 homes, while Lambeth’s rate was 2 and Southwark’s was 1.9.

A spokesman for Lambeth council said: “Lambeth has more than 23,000 council homes and our priority is ensuring these are safe and well-maintained for all our tenants. We have made many improvements in recent years, through our drive to upgrade all our homes in line with the Lambeth Housing Standard (LHS), but we have also concentrated on making improvements to day-to-day repairs and maintenance.

“Mould is an issue that has affected a number of our properties and we know the distress it can cause for residents when it appears.  We apologise for this and have now formed a project group to review the way we tackle damp and mould – with an emphasis on working proactively and in a more resident-focused way.

“To achieve this proactive zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould, we are putting in place 16 key preventative actions – including a detailed condition survey of our homes to proactively prevent and resolve damp and mould issues early.  We are also making it easier for residents to report damp and mould and allocating dedicated staff to support residents through any remedial work.  Preventing damp and mould is now an integral part of our asset management strategy.

“We have also enhanced our resource to undertake any damp and mould remedial work and since the summer, we have appointed 10 new firms and created a brand new in-house repairs team that have been working across the borough carrying out repairs and maintenance jobs to council homes – all as part of our drive to improve the service we provide to tenants.”

A Hammersmith and Fulham council spokesman said: “As a large London landlord, we recognise that we’ve performed poorly in tackling damp and mould in tenants’ homes.

“In Hammersmith and Fulham, we have an ageing housing stock, with years of austerity preventing us from upgrading it.

“Despite this, we are committed to investing £1 million a week for the next 12 years on modernising and refurbishing council-owned homes including tackling issues of damp and drainage.

“We fully support the findings of the Ombudsman and its recommendations. The situation is not acceptable, and we apologise unreservedly to tenants that have been impacted. We are studying the Ombudsman’s report closely and will act on each of its proposals.”

The council said they would implement further measures including a survey, a dedicated damp and mould team and a revised compensation scheme for residents.

Southwark council has been contacted for comment.

Pictured top: Chris McManus in the temporary accommodation provided by Lambeth council

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One thought on “Two South London councils among worst five landlords in England for damp and mould

  • Steve Norton

    We’ve been waiting a week for Lambeth to repair the lift in our block. Had to cancel mums visit to cancer unit out patients as she’s too frail to do stairs. Over an hour trying to get through to council by phone. In the end just gave up. And so it goes on.


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