Mould in SFA/SSFA

Contents

01   AFF's mould database

For many years, families have come to AFF with concerns about damp and mouldy SFA.

In 2012, we decided to set up our own AFF Mould Database for families to record their SFA address so that we could start to build up a picture of the issue; we now have over 1,000 addresses on the database and through sharing this with DIO and Amey we have helped them to pinpoint ‘hotspot areas’.

As a result, DIO have committed £6 million over two years to upgrade and refurb those houses/estates worst affected.

DIO and CA also agreed a revised three-stage process for responding to reports of mould and damp, following discussion with the Families Federations:

  1. Family contacts the Amey helpdesk on 0800 707 6000 to advise that they have problems with damp and/or mould.
  2. The CA helpdesk advisor raises a survey for the Accommodation Officer (AO) to attend the property – the AO is expected to attend the property within five full working days of the call to the helpdesk. Please note: The day after this call is classed as day one.
  3. AO visits the property and takes one of the following steps: a) raises a suitable repair plan and advises the customer of the plan and timeframes for the work. Or b) calls in a specialist contractor and advises the customer of the appointment and what it entails. The AO passes the details to the CA Damp Remediation Project Manager.
  4. Either a) this happens – The repairs are undertaken, issues resolved. Or b) the specialist contractor suggests an action plan and the CA Damp Remediation Manager advises the customer of this and what it entails and any timeframes for the work. At this point, it may be necessary for CA to raise a Statement of Need (SON) for the works, DIO will need to approve if the cost of the work is above £5,000 and the customer will be advised by the CA Damp Remediation Manager of the action, how long it will take, the impact of the work and any preparation they may need to do beforehand. If DIO approve the SON, the work will need to be appointed and the customer engaged with for suitable dates for the work to be carried out.
  5. If DIO reject the request, the customer is able to raise a stage two complaint with DIO.

CA are to keep families informed at all stages of the process.

The new process means that a report of serious damp or mould will be inspected by a specialist contractor who will have access to damp meters and other technology for establishing the cause of the issue, and which will be recorded on a common survey form.

For an infographic on the process, click here.

This progress wouldn’t have been possible without families coming to AFF with the evidence, so please continue to register on the AFF mould database.

If you find that this process isn’t being followed, please log an official complaint with CA and let AFF know at housing@aff.org.uk

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02   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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03   How to deal with mould in your SFA

Condensation issues can often be effectively dealt with by your family. The ‘Your Service family accommodation – Dealing with damp and mould‘ shows what you can do to reduce condensation and tackle mould in the home.

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 Amey Customer Helpdesk as these causes will need to be dealt with by Amey.

Whatever the cause of the mould, the first time you notice it call the Amey Customer Helpdesk (0800 707 6000) and ask for someone to come and look at it. A Technical Officer (TO) will attend with a damp meter to assess whether the mould is caused by structural or general condensation issues.

Following the assessment, there are three possible actions:

  • The TO will confirm there are no structural issues causing the mould and provide some advice on different ways you could tackle the problem
  • The TO may identify some aspects within the house that Amey can address that may help the situation, such as clearing or fitting trickle vents, clearing airbricks etc. The TO will also provide advice on how to prevent the mould from returning
  • If the mould is believed to be caused by structural issues, the TO will request a further survey to produce a report detailing potential works and costs involved for DIO approval. In the meantime, the TO will provide advice on what you can do to alleviate the problem.

There is a lot that you can do as a family to reduce condensation and mould; however, if you have an on-going situation with mould and you feel that it has not been addressed properly up until now (e.g. the area has been treated and painted over but it keeps coming back), please call the Amey Customer Helpdesk and ask for a TO visit to reassess the situation for you.

You should also call the Helpdesk whenever you see the mould re-appearing so they can build up a record of the incidence of mould in your home. It would also really help Amey to know if this is a common problem on the street/estate as this could indicate a wider issue.

AFF would like to know the addresses of ALL SFA and SSFA which area affected by mould – please click to register your SFA/SSFA on our database.

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04   A mould success story

For many years during the winter period, families approached AFF about mould in their SFA and the way it was dealt with by DIO and MHS.

In 2012, AFF decided to launch its Mould database in order to gather as much information about how many SFA experience mould and damp problems.

The residents of Elm Hill enthusiastically got behind this project and 10 houses were recorded on our database. AFF approached DIO, who agreed to carry out intrusive structural checks on sample properties to ascertain the condition of the properties and to see if remedial works were required.

The investigations revealed that the properties were suffering from water ingress through poor roofs and cold bridging, resulting in damp and mould in upstairs rooms; so not a “lifestyle” issue after all!

As a result of the investigations, regional DIO staff were successful in bidding for funding to resolve the roofing problems (which will hopefully cure the mould issues which families in these houses have put up with for many years) and permission was granted for the houses in Elm Hill to be re-roofed.

As an added bonus funding was also found to improve other aspects of what were very tired houses so not only should these SFA now be mould free but families will see a marked improvement in some internal aspects of their houses such as new kitchens or bathrooms and new boilers.

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