Mould in SFA/SSFA

AFF is very aware of the issues many families have experienced with damp and mould in their homes and for the last 10+ years have been working behind the scenes to push for better processes to support families in dealing with this.

In 2012 AFF created a mould database where families can record their addresses if they are affected by mould. As a result of this evidence from families, we have been able to highlight areas of concern to DIO which have resulted in major project works being undertaken to help eradicate the root cause of damp and mould in many areas.

This progress wouldn’t have been possible without families coming to AFF with the evidence, so once you have reported the issue to Pinnacle please continue to register your address on the AFF mould database if your home is affected by damp and mould.

Contents

01   Damp and mould process

AFF is delighted that DIO has recently announced more improvements to the process for reporting damp and mould in your quarters.

DIO’s aims of this action plan are:

  • To ensure they provide and maintain dry, warm, healthy homes for Service personnel and their families where damp and mould does not pose a hazard to either the physical or mental health and wellbeing of families.
  • To ensure that the fabric of the home is protected from damage resulting from damp and mould.

DIO will achieve these aims by:

  • Providing a dedicated helpline number, via the Pinnacle National Service Centre in due course, for families to specifically report damp and mould.
  • Ensuring families are not moved into homes with history of damp and mould issues.
  • Homes will be inspected for current and previous occurrences of damp and mould through a combination of inspections and review of historical data.
  • Vacant homes will not be allocated if they have works outstanding recommended by a damp and mould survey; or if the preceding family complained of damp and mould and no survey has yet been completed. If there are reasonable grounds to suspect a home might be vulnerable to damp and mould – for example if neighbouring homes or similar types of homes suffer from damp – the DIO Regional Manager should commission a damp and mould survey.
  • After works have been completed on a home for damp and mould, there will be a period of monitoring before they are allocated to a family to ensure works have been successful.
  • Damp and mould will be treated with appropriate urgency, recognising that while it will rarely represent a serious and immediate health and wellbeing hazard, prolonged exposure can create serious problems.
  • Where the problem cannot be resolved quickly, or if it is particularly severe, families will be offered alternative accommodation.
  • In conjunction with Accommodation Policy in MOD, DIO will determine if temporary downgrades/reduced CAAS assessments are required and review policy that does not support need.
  • Where homes have been provided that suffer from damp and mould, lessons learned will be applied to minimise failure to meet the commitment through both JSP 464 and the Armed Forces Covenant to provide high/good-quality accommodation.
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02   Tackling damp and mould

Following a recent rise in damp and mould reports, a task force has been created to deal with the problem. DIO is making sure that the worst affected homes are dealt with as soon as possible.

If you’ve previously reported an issue with damp and mould to the Pinnacle National Service Centre, you should receive a phone call to discuss the level of damp and mould in your home. This will be from a private number so please ensure you answer this call if possible.

From this conversation, they will then be able to communicate the next steps with you and provide a realistic timeframe for scheduling a visit to your home. As of 8 March 2023 most families have been called at least once and those who haven’t answered calls are being written to by the local supplier (VIVO or Amey). It is hugely important that you respond to either the call or letter so that your home can be included in the process. Two letters will be sent and if there is no response your home address will be removed from the process until such time as you report it again (if necessary).

In the future, if you report a problem with damp and mould, you’ll need to answer a few questions so that Pinnacle can determine the extent of the issue in your home and make sure that the worst cases are prioritised.

As part of the new First Responder process, operatives may attend to ‘mould wash’ the affected areas to reduce the impact it may be having on you. This is to ensure that the mould spores have been eliminated. The product is called TECcare, which is a high-level broad-spectrum disinfectant and decontamination product which destroys mould to the root in just 15 minutes. The product is environmentally friendly and it does not contain bleaches or any other toxic chemicals. It is also biodegradable and safe to use whilst the SFA is still occupied.

Whilst we understand that the mould wash may not be visually pleasing, please be assured that this is a vital step that needs to be taken in the damp and mould process and is not an alternative to doing the works needed to resolve the core issue.

At the visit to treat the issue, photos will be taken before and after, and additional information will be gathered (e.g. looking to see if the gutters are blocked). If the cause is easily identified then works will be triggered to rectify those, leaving the surveyors free to look at the cases where there isn’t an obvious cause.

In the most severe cases families may be moved to another SFA.

Part of the process will be to identify any health issues in the family as this will help the triage process – please do ensure that you tell the call handler if there are any health or medical issues.

If you are experiencing issues with damp and mould, but have not yet reported the issue, please call the NSC on 0800 031 8628 and select option 4 for damp and mould.

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03   How to report damp and mould

If you notice that you have damp and mould in your home, which you are unable to deal with by wiping down surfaces and ventilating rooms, you will need to report the issue to Pinnacle for further investigation.

Call the Pinnacle damp and mould direct line on 0800 031 8628 option 1 and then option 4. A plan will be drawn up to resolve the issues and then visits will take place at three and six months to ensure that the work has resolved the issue fully. For more information see Pinnacle: Dealing with damp and mould

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04   Monitors

If you report that your home is affected by damp and mould, you may find that VIVO/Amey install monitors in the house.

These temperature and humidity sensors are smart devices designed to accurately measure the temperature and humidity levels in your home. By strategically placing these sensors in different rooms, VIVO/Amey can gain real-time insights into your living environment. The sensors are battery operated so have no running cost to you and only record temperature and humidity.

Once installed, the sensors continuously monitor temperature and humidity levels. The collected data is then analysed to provide valuable insights into the conditions of your home.

With this data, VIVO/Amey can take informed actions to prevent dampness and mould; whether it’s improving ventilation, addressing moisture sources, or seeking professional assistance.

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05   Mould in houses

Have you ever wondered what causes mould? Mould needs moisture to grow and there are two underlying reasons why moisture/damp might appear in a house – structural reasons and condensation.

Structural issues are related to the fabric of the building which means water or moisture is getting into the property. Examples of the types of problems that occur include:

  • Water leaks from windows, roof, downspouts, guttering, internal plumbing and flooding
  • Penetrating damp through walls
  • Rising damp – usually caused by non-existent or defective damp proof courses
  • Wet or damp basements or crawl spaces

Condensation is caused by something happening inside the house, such as:

  • High relative humidity in the air
  • Too much water vapour or steam being generated through cooking, washing, showering and clothes drying
  • Inadequate ventilation or not using the extractor fans, vents and windows that are available
  • Inadequate heating or too much heat
  • Inadequate cleaning and drying after major water leaks and bursts or floods

So, how do you tell whether the mould in your home is caused by a structural issue or from excessive condensation? Mould due to structural issues tends to appear in the following places:

In the house

  • Walls under the bottom corners of windows
  • Floors around toilets and under dishwashers
  • Walls around un-insulated cold-water pipes
  • Around the chimney in the attic
  • Near damaged or blocked downspouts
  • Basement – Bottom of walls, corners and floors
  • Bottoms of walls – bridged or earth covered damp proof courses

In the basement

  • Damp walls or floors
  • Under boxes or carpets
  • Cracks and holes
  • Efflorescence (a harmless, white powdery deposit on the surface of the wall which is a sign of moisture within the home)

Mould from condensation tends to be seen in the following areas:

In bathrooms

  • On ceilings over the bath or shower
  • Window glass, sills and frames
  • Under or behind the toilet and cistern
  • Exterior walls and tiled surfaces

In bedrooms

  • Windows, in the bottom corners, sides or on the glass
  • Behind dressers and wardrobes on exterior walls
  • Particularly on the top corners of the bedroom walls which are the furthest from any heating source

In the basement

  • Areas where a dry wall is attached to an exterior wall

In Britain, condensation is mainly a winter problem when warm moist air is generated in areas like kitchens and bathrooms and then travels to colder parts of the house.

The moisture in the air comes from a number of sources within the house. Water vapour is produced in relatively large quantities from normal day to day activities – a five-person household generates about 10 kg of water into the air every day (before any heating) with the biggest sources being:

  • Cooking 3 kg
  • Washing and drying clothes 5.5 kg
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06   How to deal with mould in your SFA

Condensation issues can often be effectively dealt with by your family. However, in cases where mould is caused by structural or ventilation issues (such as insufficient extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens), families should contact the Pinnacle National Service Centre as these causes will need to be dealt with by your local contractor (Amey/VIVO).

Whatever the cause of the mould, the first time you notice it call the NSC and ask for someone to come and look at it.

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