Oxford City Council is urging tenants to report problems with damp and mould in their homes.
Untreated damp and mould can pose a serious health risk. In November, a coroner found that two-year-old Awaab Ishak died as the result of a severe respiratory infection caused by prolonged exposure to mould at his home in Rochdale in 2020.
People living in homes with damp and mould are more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma. Damp and mould can also affect the immune system and have a negative impact on people’s mental health.
The council is taking a proactive approach to dealing with the issue and is writing to all its 8,000 tenants asking them to report damp and mould in their home.
It has also created a web page for all Oxford residents which explains:
- the types and causes of damp
- how people may be able to take steps to reduce condensation in their home
- how to get rid of mould
- how to get help dealing with damp and mould
The most common type of damp is condensation, which is the most likely cause of black mould in the home. The causes of condensation are too much moisture in the air, poor ventilation and a home being cold.
Nearly three quarters (71.9%) of England’s 8.3m rented homes were built before 1981 and are not designed for the way we live in 2023. The cost of living crisis also means that many people are struggling with difficult choices between heating and eating.
To reflect this, the web page offers advice on support with the cost of living and help that may be available to improve conditions – including energy efficiency – in people’s homes. It also outlines some simple steps they may be able to take to reduce condensation occurring as the result of everyday activities.
Small patches of mould like dark staining around windows and on bathroom tiles can be easily and safely wiped away using a cloth moistened with diluted bleach.
Mould which has spread over large areas of walls or ceilings needs more drastic action. While it is possible for tenants to treat this with a fungicidal wash and later redecorate using fungicidal paint, the council is on hand to help and says that tenants should not suffer in silence.
Council tenants experiencing damp and mould should call 01865 249811.
The council and ODS will start by carrying out a survey to identify what kind of damp there is and what may be causing this. Part of this survey may involve treating any mould.
Where further work is needed, the council will identify what this is and arrange to have it carried out. It may need to review the results of the initial survey before scheduling any work to put things right.
If necessary, the council will offer advice on managing condensation and also look at how it could improve ventilation or heating – for example, by installing background ventilators, fitting bigger radiators or installing extractor fans.
Where no other work is originally identified and damp and mould persists after four weeks, the council will then consider installing monitoring equipment to look at the problem in more detail.
Private and Housing Association Tenants
In the first instance, private rented or housing association tenants should contact their landlord or managing agent in writing to report problems with disrepair, damp and mould.
If a landlord does not respond within 14 days or will not carry out work to fix the problem, tenants should contact the council:
- call 01865 252658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- people living in a house in multiple occupation, call 01865 252211 or email email@example.com
If the council identifies problems needing repair, it will ask the landlord to carry out any necessary work. If a landlord does not take action, the council can serve them with an improvement notice.
All private rented homes in Oxford now need a licence. It is a condition of the council’s licensing schemes that landlords and agents carry out regular inspections of the homes they rent out to identify disrepair problems.
Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing, said: “The tragic death of Awaab Ishak was avoidable and is a stark warning of the risk posed when landlords fail to deal with damp and mould in their homes.
“As a landlord to 8,000 council tenants, damp and mould is an issue we take extremely seriously. If this is a problem in your home, call us on 01865 249811.
“Private and housing association tenants should contact their landlords in the first instance. If your landlord doesn’t respond within 14 days or refuses to deal with the problem, we can and will step in.
“All tenants deserve a decent home. If yours has damp and mould, don’t suffer in silence. We’re here to help.”