Harlow Council at fault for untreated mould in temporary accommodation

News / Tue 9th Jan 2024 at 12:33pm

HARLOW District Council has been ruled to be at fault for causing “distress and uncertainty” through its handling of a complaint of damp and mould in a resident’s temporary accommodation.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), which is the final-stage service for complaints about local councils, authorities and organisations, upheld that Harlow Council had caused an injustice by allowing “excessive” delays to repairing damage caused by damp and mould in the complainant’s property, as well as its consideration of the complaint.

The complainant, named in the investigator’s report as Ms X, first moved with her family into temporary accommodation provided by Harlow Council in January 2020 as Ms X had approached the authority for homelessness assistance.

Ms X said that the property, a two-bedroom flat which had a kitchen with no doors fitted, had dampness and mould present, which she first reported in March of that year.

In early June 2020, as a result of the national lockdown, a surveyor for Harlow Council inspected Ms X’s property and assessed that there was only a low level of humidity and that the home was at an acceptable temperature.

Although the council maintains that it had attempted to visit Ms X’s home on a number of occasions following this initial inspection, it returned to the property in mid-October to treat the mould discovered in a hallway cupboard with anti-mould paint but found that after a few days, it had not dried. It contested that an inspector had attempted to call Ms X three times at the end of that month with no response, though Ms X disputed this and said that she had not heard back after leaving a message.

In November 2020, Ms X’s case was closed by the council on the grounds that they had not been able to get in contact with her, which she again disputed. Although a further inspection was promised once lockdown restrictions had been lifted, she contacted the council in January 2021 to inform them that mould had appeared on the external walls inside her property, that she had not heard from a surveyor, and later that month made an insurance claim on the basis that many of her possessions had been damaged by the conditions in her home.

Ms X moved out of the property in February 2021 after successfully bidding on a different property through the council’s housing register. Although internal emails from the council show the insurance team asked for a damp inspection report, it appears that this was never produced following Ms X moving out of the property.

In addition, although the previous surveyor from June 2020 concluded that the presence of damp was caused by Ms X’s lifestyle, though there was a lack of specific evidence to support this.

The ombudsman also ruled that, despite Ms X being partly responsible for delays to remedial works in September 2020 as a result of not granting the council access to her property, the seven months it took for the council to begin repairs was “excessive”.

The report reads: “If the council had carried out an inspection when it should have it could have established what the issues with damp and mould were in Ms X’s property.

“Given that Ms X reported, in November 2020 and January 2021, that her possessions had been damaged by mould and dampness, this was a missed opportunity by the council to investigate and resolve the issues at her property.

“While I cannot say whether this would have prevented Ms X from having possessions damaged, it has caused her uncertainty.”

At one stage, Harlow Council had taken three months to respond to Ms X’s correspondence and additionally signposted her to the wrong ombudsman, which further delayed the complaint being considered correctly and took over a year for it to be established that the complaint was out of jurisdiction.

Harlow Council agreed to provide Ms X with a letter of apology, as well as two separate compensation payments for the faults in its report and complaints handling.

A Harlow Council spokesperson said: “With regard to the case dating to March 2020, we have said sorry in writing to Mrs X for the faults highlighted by the Ombudsman and we have paid her £300 for the distress and uncertainty she experienced for how we handled her reports of mould and damp and for not considering whether her temporary accommodation had become suitable. We have also paid a further £150 to recognise the distress Ms X suffered for the faults in our complaint handling. We agreed with all the actions outlined by the ombudsman and have complied with them.

“This case dates to March 2020 and we have since made several improvements to the way we respond to damp and mould issues within our homes. We have introduced a new process for inspecting problems and planning repairs and improvements and this process is regularly reviewed.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

14 Comments for Harlow Council at fault for untreated mould in temporary accommodation:

2024-01-09 14:08:47

People get given accommodation for free and any slight problem they moan! Try sleeping on the streets.

Luke Burton
2024-01-09 15:03:20

People have the right not to live in a damp and moldy property. This clearly wasn't just a "slight problem".

2024-01-09 15:50:20

Have the right! You go to work and earn the right…. Why do people expect a free house? I had mould in my house and I got rid of it! People get given houses and can’t even look after them or maintain them, heating on full whilst windows all closed will cause condensation especially with damp washing on radiators!!

Luke Burton
2024-01-09 16:09:08

No doubt you'll have people that abuse the system and get help when they don't deserve it, but having and paying into a social safety net is the cost of living in a functioning society. I know what you mean and as somebody that receives no additional help from the state and pays higher rate taxes it gets frustrating for me as well - but I don't direct my anger at the poor - I direct it at government.

2024-01-09 16:26:20

We are a spoilt society. Lots people have lost houses due to bombs in Ukraine and Gaza but in Great Britain they moan about free housing and mould… Wake up people

Luke Burton
2024-01-09 16:29:16

Let's not set the bar that low.

2024-01-09 17:52:28

Bruno. I suppose you’ve got your own nice garden to hang that damp washing. Not everyone has the luxury of a garden and has to dry it indoors.

2024-01-09 18:33:57

Well make sure the windows are open so damp air can leave! Not rocket science

2024-01-09 19:16:15

Bruno . Enjoy your luxury garden.

2024-01-09 20:07:52


2024-01-10 20:22:22

I think the point here is the council did not do there job properly and have been held accountable. when my neighbour had outside cladding done on there council property my daughters bedroom became very damp l got in touch with the council and they were not interested l had to pay for the damage to be fixed l should off gone frow my house insurance but l could not let my daughter sleep in those conditions. So good on Mrs x mybe more people should hold the council accountabe 🙄0

Tracy George
2024-01-10 23:35:11

If there was mould and damp soon after she moved in then I suspect the prob was already there. It is quite serious damp to cause these issues imo, and normally a bigger fault that causes it than wet washing.. mould takes a while to build up enough that it affects clothes etc. Anyway, regardless of private v council tennants, Harlow Council had a duty. They failed

Julie Depp
2024-01-11 10:12:25

Bruno - who said it was a free house or that they didn't work? This is about the Council not the family

Julie Depp
2024-01-11 10:18:46

Bruno - who said it was a free house or that they didn't work? This is about the Council not the family

Leave a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *