Edinburgh to take ‘long term fabric-first’ approach to tackle excessive moisture-related issues in council homes

Edinburgh to take 'long term fabric-first' approach to tackle excessive moisture-related issues in council homes

The City of Edinburgh Council said today it will put the health and wellbeing of tenants at the forefront of an improved process to deal with issues related to excessive dampness, mould and condensation.

Enhanced processes are being rolled out from this month to deliver a robust, streamlined, start-to-finish approach that will quickly address immediate moisture-related issues within council homes, while also looking at the conditions and internal fabric to prevent problems arising in the longer term.

By laying out a revised step-by-step guide on how tenants will be fully supported in a report presented to the housing, homelessness and fair work committee today, the council said it is demonstrating its commitment to addressing issues of damp, mould or condensation for tenants.

In the report, the first step will be to remove and reinstate any walls or surfaces affected, alongside work to identify the causes and address them. It’s been designed to ensure that tenants are kept up to date through more frequent updates from locality officers and ongoing liaison so they know what to expect at every step of the process.

Significant capital investment will be at the heart of the programme to remedy the root causes of these issues. Work is already under way to proactively engage with tenants to ensure that any homes affected are identified and appropriate remedial action taken.

In the short term, following the successful pilot dehumidifier programme, devices will now be made available as standard, with help to fund the running costs for the duration they are required. In conjunction, other immediate action will be taken to investigate if there are any underlying issues such as poor external fabric, poorly performing heating systems, issues with windows or doors, or ineffective extractor fans.

This will be complemented by the ongoing support of the council’s dedicated Energy Advice Service, set up in 2018. It provides advice and support for tenants on energy efficiency and heating their homes and has supported nearly 3,000 households, with financial savings for tenants totalling over £590,000 and carbon savings of 1,485 tonnes.

Convener and vice convener of the housing, homelessness and fair work committee, Councillor Kate Campbell and Councillor Mandy Watt, have looked to tackle this challenge for the council repairs service head on, listening to tenants’ concerns and taking more responsibility to make sure tenants live in homes that are clean, safe and warm.

Councillor Campbell said: “I’ve heard the concerns raised by our tenants and recognise that there were issues with the process. Previously if damp wasn’t identified, but there was mould and condensation, tenants were often given a referral to the energy advice service, but too often work wasn’t undertaken to identify any underlying issues which could be causing mould, and mould was not removed as the first step. This report sets out how that process will change.

“The first step will be to remove any mould or damaged surfaces and reinstate them. We’ll then take a robust look at what the cause could be, whether that’s leaks, issues with doors or windows, insulation, heating systems or extractor fans not working. After we’ve carried out these steps, we’ll bring in energy advice to make sure tenants are heating their homes in a way that works for them and is as energy efficient as possible.

“The new process will be more transparent from start to finish and it will be made clear at the beginning what tenants can expect. The process is designed to make sure we are dealing with these issues in the short, medium and long term, and there are checks along the way as well as six weeks after the work is completed.

“Through this new plan and revised processes we’re taking more ownership, more responsibility and giving more support to our council tenants to make sure they are living in homes that are safe, clean and warm and ones that they are proud to live in. The health and wellbeing of all council tenants is paramount which is why we asked for this report. We need to be confident that we are getting it right for all tenants who are experiencing these types of issues with their homes.

“This will be complimented by the current capital investment programme and the work we’re starting to retrofit existing homes to high energy efficient standards. This demonstrates our intention to improve the quality of all of our council homes and bring them up to modern standard of energy efficiency which in turn will help to keep homes better ventilated, warmer and cheaper to heat. Fuel poverty is a critical factor and this report outlines the measures in place to address this worrying situation for families.”

Councillor Watt added: “I’m really pleased to see that we’ll be taking greater responsibility for fixing the problems of condensation, damp and mould that afflict some of the housing we own. By authorising our repairs team to tackle these issues head on, we’ve taken huge steps in the right direction. We’ll also be looking to invest in any structural improvements that are needed. As things progress, we’ll check with our tenants that what we’re doing works; and we’ll listen to their suggestions about any further measures we could take. The Covid-19 pandemic has created challenges for our repairs service team but we are all committed to getting this right for our tenants.

“The council is investing significantly in homes to make them easier and cheaper to heat. In the last  six years, over half of council homes have benefited from energy efficiency measures including new heating systems, insulation and new windows and front doors. A Whole House Retrofit (WHR) programme is currently in development and will inform the long-term investment approach for existing homes from 2023 onwards. The WHR approach will prioritise advanced whole house retrofit measures, which will help to design out poor performance and future maintenance risks. Once completed, homes will be better insulated, ventilated and affordable to heat.

“The process for dampness, mould and condensation will be continually monitored to pick up any emerging issues, and a detailed review will be undertaken after a three-month period, to allow time for the process to be embedded and an assessment of its effectiveness can then be made.

“This will include a review of tenant satisfaction and constructive feedback received, together with further tenant engagement. This will complement an existing in-depth review of a sample of escalated complaints, which includes cases where dampness, mould and condensation issues have been present.”

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