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16 Mar 2023 < Back

Has the game really changed?

Members across the UK have reported incredible levels of enquiries relating to mould and condensation this winter. This enormous uplift in concern about mould specifically, and dampness more generally, has been witnessed at the PCA too.

Searches at record levels

Member searches within the PCA website are at record levels. Enquiries from organisations that are connected to the provision of social housing have more than doubled and our ability to engage with journalists and legislators is extraordinary right now.

It seems that the UK Government, fronted by Michael Gove at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, puts out new directives and policy statements on a fortnightly basis. Much of what has been announced so far seems to be aimed at educating those who are responsible for social housing provision, holding accountable those who are placing targets on people and organisations that are already struggling to meet the expectations of tenants and their own Boardrooms.

Education, education, education...

Education is always a good place to start. Indeed, we would go further and assert that everyone who has a responsibility for the provision of any housing should understand the basic principles of the causes and effects of dampness. We would also assert that where dampness affects a building, it must be investigated, managed or remediated by professionals that are qualified to call themselves specialists. That’s what PCA members are all about after all.

It seems too simple, but recognising that visible dampness is the effect of an underlying defect or system failure is really important. Understanding this allows landlords to prioritise actions and save time & money. Knowledge can also foster empathy that defuses disputes and improves outcomes for all.

Work commissioned as a result of any specialist intervention must be correct, proportionate and of good quality. This, in our opinion, can only be a reasonable expectation when a specialist is able to charge at a reasonable rate. Cutting corners in the short term inevitably adds cost in the long term.

When dampness occurs...

Dampness may be evidence of a significant problem with the building fabric or merely the result of a behavioural or operational issue that needs little more than an extractor fan to be correctly commissioned or a gully unblocked. However, how then can an overstretched housing officer or a contractor that is bound to an inflexible schedule of rates, be expected to devote the required time and effort to even simple problems if they are not properly rewarded for their efforts?

Some may argue that the 'balance of rights and expectations' may well have been weighted in favour of landlords, while other may say that what is happening right now risks tipping that balance too far making it impossible for landlords to provide homes at rates people can afford. For me, it’s too hard to call and would people really care anyway?!?

PCA will continue to add to the debate

PCA is and will continue to provide opinions as part of the debate raging around social housing. We will continue to call for better regulatory compliance, the accountability of landlords, better training and qualification, and all the other stuff that has been said before.  

What is clear in my own mind is that even though the rules of the landlord and tenant game are currently changing, the contest looks pretty much the same. What is needed is not to change the way we play this game, but to find another game to play. A game where there are no losers and everyone wins.

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