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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 1 June, 2020
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Experts say tenants are not to blame for council flat mould

An architect who assessed the Dublin flats said the problem is “extensive and very serious”.

EXPERTS HAVE SAID social housing tenants should not be blamed for damp, mould and condensation problems in local authority housing, after an assessment of a flat complex in Dublin.

Architects commissioned by the Community Action Network (CAN), examined conditions at Tyrone Place in Inchicore and found the buildings were unable to provide adequate ventilation and had poor thermal performance making them hard to heat.

“The result is excessive heat loss, the strong likelihood of extensive condensation and mould conditions and the real risk of adverse effects on health of residents. The problem is extensive and very serious. A significant response is needed,” architect William Scott said in his report.

‘Breaking through freshly painted surfaces’

In an assessment of one flat, occupied by a couple and their two children, Scott found there appeared to be no insulation on the walls. He also found inadequate ventilation in every room in the two-bedroom flat, with no extract ventilation in either the kitchen or the bathroom.

There was also evidence of mould in each room.

The couple, who moved into the flat in August 2014, found it to be in good order at the time and had been freshly painted. Just three months later they noticed mould developing, particularly in the bathroom.

In his report, Scott noted “very bad mould” around the gas meter cabinet:

It looks to be of considerable age and as if it was not cleaned off during preparation or mould treatment prior to the new tenancy. There is also the suggestion that the mould is actually breaking though freshly painted surfaces from beneath. The presence of the mould suggests inadequate cleaning and or sterilisation of mould took place.

He said the tenants had used mould cleaner to remove much of it from surfaces, though this did “a lot of damage to the decoration of the walls”.

In correspondence with the couple about the problem, Dublin City Council stated that condensation repairs are the tenant’s responsibility, though it did acknowledge there was a pre-existing mould problem in the flat. The council said this had been “removed and the area replastered”.

However, this is not in keeping with Scott’s findings. He said it was much more likely that the mould had reappeared in such a short space of time due to inadequacies of the building fabric, ventilation or inadequate treatment of the previous outbreaks, rather than as a result of unreasonable action by tenants.

He said this incidence of mould was “entirely consistent” with others reported in the complex.

Health problems

As part of the assessment, tenants at Tyrone Place were also surveyed, with 64% reporting difficulties keeping rooms warm. Similarly, 62% had an issue with damp or condensation and 51% said they had mould in their flats.

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Over 90% of those who responded to a survey said that they have problems with damp and 75% of those people said that they have continuous health problems including colds, chest infections and asthma.

Commenting on the findings, Averil Power, Chief Executive of the Asthma Society of Ireland said “poor housing, and associated mould, spores and mildew has long been recognised as a causative and an exacerbating factor in many common respiratory conditions”.

“The Asthma Society of Ireland has great concerns for anybody living in the conditions described in these expert reports and in previous reports”.

Between 2014 and 2015, Dublin City Council received almost 1,500 complaints of damp and mould by tenants. It claimed that the overwhelming majority of the complaints were due to tenant activity.

“The evidence that building defects are causing dangerous damp, mould and condensation shows that the real source of a problem that has been blamed for years on tenant activity actually lies within the walls of the sick buildings that people are paying rent for,” said Cecilia Forrestal of CAN.

“Local authorities consistently state in tenant communication and agreements that condensation, mould and damp are issues related to tenant activity such as drying clothes,” she continued.

She said these reports show this is not the case and she urged local authorities to address the structural issues at the heart of the problem.

Read: ‘It was supposed to be our dream house. It’s turned into a nightmare’>

Read: Overcrowding, severe mould, rotting wood: The issues with this Celtic Tiger council estate haven’t gone away>

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