03 Jan 2024

A holistic approach: Mid Devon Housing's journey to tackle damp and mould

Mid Devon Housing (MDH), part of Mid Devon District Council, provides just under 3,000 social housing homes spread across an expansive 350 square miles. More than half of our homes are off the gas network, two-thirds are pre-1970s and many located in exposed rural areas. These factors make our properties more susceptible to damp and mould issues. In this blog, we delve into our approach to tackling these challenges whilst navigating conflicting recommendations from legislation, regulation, good practice, and government guidance, all while considering the realities of human behaviour and budget constraints.

Tenant involvement is paramount in our decision-making process. Through open communication, we have collected invaluable feedback from hundreds of tenants. This ongoing dialogue has helped us understand the real-life impact of our decisions and has guided us in making informed choices.

A comprehensive review

Our journey in addressing damp and mould issues began in 2017/18 with a thorough review of technical inspections. While significant improvements were made to the technical diagnostic process, we committed to closely monitoring these changes, gathering key data over the following five years. Drawing on the wealth of knowledge from our technical inspectors and repairs supervisors, most with decades of experience with MDH, we initiated a project to capture their insights and direct our efforts.

In 2020, we expanded the project, analysing repairs data from 2015-2020, coupled with tenant feedback. This project, updated to reflect the recommendations of the Housing Ombudsman’s 'Spotlight on Damp and Mould' report, led to the MDH damp and mould review 2022 document, which identified good practices and valuable lessons. However, it underscored the need for further refinement.

Navigating against the grain

We recognise the reality that many of our homes will continue to face mould and condensation challenges. Rather than opting for knee-jerk reactions to recent publications, we've chosen a path that may go against the grain.

We’re fortunate to have high levels of decent homes, and an experienced in-house direct labour organisation enables us to respond quickly to disrepair. What little remaining budget there is after responsive maintenance, safety compliance works and modernisations needs careful consideration. This means we can’t do everything.

One of the big considerations was a move away from funded mould treatments, in cases where there is no contributory disrepair. This was based on the fact that the evidence suggested this was 2.5 times (18 per cent compared with 46 per cent) less effective than when arranged by the tenant.

Compare this with the success rate of positive input ventilation at more than 86 per cent success rate, or insulation improvements at 57 per cent, and it’s a no-brainer for us where we should be directing additional budget. The cost of one mould treatment, which may only last for six weeks could potentially fund a whole house ventilation upgrade.

Our decisions have not always aligned with those of many other housing providers, however, we stand firm in our belief that our choices are grounded in real data, tenant feedback, decades of experience, and a keen understanding of the budgetary impact of each course of action.

Learning from avoidable deaths: an evolving strategy

Whilst we were already two years into our project by the time Awaab Ishak's death came to the forefront, it underscored the importance of our efforts. The less-publicised death of Luke Brooks in 2022 reinforced the uncomfortable truth of impact of socio-economic factors on home conditions. This pushed us towards better multi-agency working, ways of 'finding our silence,' communication, and the importance proactive follow-ups.

In response to these tragedies, and with the benefit of enhanced learning shared by our neighbouring social housing providers, our approach evolved. We enhanced data collection and analysis, introduced in-home environmental monitoring, invested in additional diagnostic tools, and began a targeted tenant survey. The end result was the much more comprehensive MDH damp and mould review 2023, which summarises countless hours of research and thousands of pieces of data. We directed resources to this project as a priority, enabling swift implementation of our findings. We also continue to share key observations from our environmental projects, not only through the review publications, but through professional networks, such as this breakthrough in two complex cases. 


MDH's journey to tackle damp, mould, and condensation is marked by transparency, collaboration, and a commitment to real solutions. By actively involving tenants, and making best use of the expertise of our longstanding staff, we are confident in our ability to navigate conflicting recommendations while staying true to our mission of providing safe, comfortable homes for our residents. It is still such early days in trying to understand such a complex issue to be able to confidently say whether we have this right, however, through data-driven decision-making and a holistic approach, we are optimistic that our endeavours will lead to lasting improvements, benefiting our tenants both in the short and long term.


Rosie Wills, technical support and repairs manager, Mid Devon Housing