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Hundreds of damp complaints in council flats
HUNDREDS of complaints were made to Winchester civic chiefs during the winter about damp council homes.
The city council’s housing committee held a special debate on Wednesday (April 4) about the issue.
Members heard that in most cases it was not shoddy design or poor repair work that was to blame.
Instead, housing officers said the main reason was the way that tenants use their properties.
For instance, many dry clothes indoors, others have lots of furniture in small spaces, while some leave windows closed for weeks on end, trapping moist air.
As a result, giving advice to tenants rather than moving them or paying for costly refits was often the best policy.
However, councillors raised concerns that the design of some homes was still the cause.
Cllr Brian Collin, who represents the Winnall and Highcliffe estates, said they must be “more sympathetic” to tenants.
He argued that giving advice about condensation was not enough if the homes were still prone to it.
Cllr Jamie Scott, who represents Stanmore, said damp had a major impact on tenants and their belongings.
Moisture could damage furniture and carpets, and often led to children having coughs and colds, he said.
“With some of the properties we’re seeing as councillors, it’s very bad out there,” said Cllr Scott.
One of those cases was reported in February at the tower blocks off Winnall Manor Road.
It was raised by Stacey Noble, who lives in Dennett House with her sons, three-year-old Harley and nine-month-old Aaron.
She said Harley had gone to hospital several times with breathing problems, which she said were caused by damp.
She raised the matter with Cllr Chris Pines, who said he was tackling several similar cases at the blocks in Winnall, which he represents.
Back at the meeting, a written report by housing officers stated that work was needed at the Winnall flats.
They said new heating systems should be fitted. They added that some other council properties might benefit from similar work.
Another proposal is to replace old wooden exterior doors at some homes with new ones that offer more insulation.
The report added that while “several hundred” complaints about damp were received, most were down to the tenants.
It also said residents could make a claim against the authority for any homes that were left in poor repair.
“In recent years, no such claims have been successful,” the report added.
It also said some tenants had asked for transfers to other homes because of damp.
“This will include gaining their GP’s support highlighting how mould is damaging to health. Such attempts are almost always unsuccessful,” the document said.
Councillors will receive another report in September about what works can be carried out to reduce the problem.
Before that, cabinet member for housing, Cllr Tony Coates, suggested writing to all tenants with advice on combating damp.