Keeping mould at arm's length in 2024

January 10, 2024

Introducing askporter's new 'Outbound Messaging' service line.

Damp and mould pose a significant threat in the UK, as the effects are exacerbated by the UK's climate, older buildings, and overwhelmed housing providers. No group feels the impact of this more than those living and working within the social housing sector.

The Regulator of Social Housing recently published significant research on damp and mould in social housing. The investigation found that the majority of cases could have been avoided with comprehensive administrative processes. Further, they would be less likely to occur if these processes were clearly communicated to tenants.

Mould is not a maintenance problem with an easy-fix. The predominant cause for concern is the dangerous health and safety risks that come with it. The health problems associated with damp and mould are dire, primarily affecting the respiratory system, but also extending to the eyes and skin. However, these impacts are tolerated by many of those living in social housing, who will often be hesitant to report damp or mould issues for fear of the possibility of losing their access to affordable housing.

Following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old boy who died from respiratory complications after living in a flat with extensive mould, we saw the introduction of "Awaab's Law." This monumental law requires social housing landlords to ensure their properties are free of hazardous substances. With the law now at consultation stage, further reforms have since been announced, with the proposed legal amendments setting landlords seven days for the completion of repairs to unsafe homes.

In 2023, with the cost of living increasing significantly, the Independent recently reported that millions of young people in Britain are at risk of mould-related illnesses as people struggle to heat their homes. Awaab's story, and the increasing number of complaints to the Housing Ombudsman Service (35%), emphasise the urgency for a comprehensive solution.

How can askporter prevent tenants from slipping through the cracks?

At askporter, we have recently introduced our outbound communication offering. In collaboration with housing providers, this innovative tool is designed to automate mass communication across key issues, providing a solution that can prevent potential concerns for both building managers and tenants.

This also covers needs such as annual gas safety checks, surveying to improve the asset register, annual service charges, and rent increases. But, given the time of year, we are particularly concerned with the dangerous damp and mould problem across UK social housing.  

askporter supports damp and mould annual surveys, shares information and tips, and facilitates welfare appointments for repairs and checks, intending to avoid callouts for non-serious issues. When it comes to mould, the best solution is prevention. By automating mass communication, facilities and property managers can give tenants key information on how to avoid damp and mould, deal with smaller cases, escalate more significant cases, and be given the time to properly respond to more significant cases.

Previously, buildings and property managers naturally avoided outbound communication because it led to a notable increase in inbound calls to an already strained call centre. With the proper tech infrastructure to support this, managers now have an increased capacity to respond. askporter's digital assistant uses AI to triage, manage, and log these messages.

Our end goal.

We hope to reduce manual outreach for social housing help desk centres, automate appointment bookings, and offer omnichannel options for tenants to engage with their social housing provider. Not only will this enhance the customer experience for tenants, but it will also improve the working experience for social housing employees, who are otherwise overwhelmed with high call traffic.

By leveraging askporter's AI-powered platform, social housing management can vastly improve operational efficiency. Property managers can therefore expect a streamlined process from issue raising to resolution.

Prevention is vital when it comes to damp and mould. askporter's new feature aims to alter the approach, empowering social housing providers to communicate effectively with tenants and tackle the issue before it gets out of hand. This will help tenants become proactive in checking for mould, recognising early warning signs, and reporting any issues when they notice them, with the knowledge (via the provider) that reporting does not equal a penalty.

As we start 2024, AI solutions, such as askporter's, can be integrated into the social housing sector to help prevent and manage various health and safety risks. We hope that tenants and housing providers look to this new year with the hope that damp and mould will no longer be a cause of concern in their lives.

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