Black mould has been around in Ludlow and across the nation for decades. Concern about its health effects came to a head in November 2022 when a coroner ruled the death of two-year old Awaab Ishak was due to black mould.

Ludlow councillors started getting urgent reports of black mould after that inquest. I issued an appeal on social media for more cases to be brought forward. All but one of the cases, which was in a private rent where the tenant had moved on, were in social housing. We identified seven cases as a priority and the last of these should be resolved this week. These may be only a small proportion of the black mould cases in Ludlow.

I suspect a lot of people haven’t come forward even though they have problems with black mould. Some are worried they will be blamed by the housing association for the problem. And that’s pretty normal. It is time we stopped the blame game and got rid of the danger of black mould before there is more damage to people’s health and black mould becomes a factor in death.

Last week the Observer ran a feature article on black mould. I quickly penned a letter. It is published in today’s edition.

I had black mould in my social rent flat for years but it has now been modernised and the black mould problem has gone. My health is better as a result. My experience was nothing like some of the situations I have learnt about in the last few months. I am horrified by the conditions some people have to live in.

One tenant has 21 square metres of mould in her two-bedroom house.

Mould is most frequently seen in the bathroom and in the kitchen, where moisture is inevitably high. A kitchen is not fit for purpose if you can’t boil the kettle and run the hot tap without getting black mould. A bathroom is not fit for purpose if you can’t have a shower or bath without fear of black mould creeping across the ceiling and walls.

I have heard so often that the problem is down to tenants not being clean. That is so very rarely the case. Tenants “bleach bomb” their properties – hardly a healthy activity. Many repaint, including with mould paint. But weeks later, even days later, the mould comes back like an invasive creature in a B-Movie horror flick.

Tenants who have an attic don’t often go up into it. In one attic, recently surveyors discovered black mould had enveloped the open topped cold water tank and had spread inside. It is potentially contaminating the cold water supply. The housing association has agreed to replace the water tank.

Lofts naturally gather moisture. That is why they should be well vented. But in one property, the glass wool insulation in the loft had been stuffed into the eaves preventing natural ventilation. A surveyor suggested that the tenant corrected this problem themselves. Fibre glass is a significant skin and lung irritant and dealing with it is not a job to do without protective gear. The housing association has agreed to sort out the insulation rather than passing the buck to the tenants.

Another solution to loft problems is positive input ventilation (PVI). This gently disperses moisture from the loft into the property or outside. A PVI unit costs around £7 a year to run, rather less than many tenants spend on bottles of bleach.

Following our campaign against black mould, several homes with black mould in Ludlow now have new window vents and extractors. Walls have been cleaned by contractors and anti-mould applied.

Connexus has served the town well by ensuring that urgent cases of black mould have been quickly and in an exemplary manner.

It is not all plain sailing. A tenant for another housing association in a two bedroomed house with two children, was told by her housing association that the black mould problem was due to her have “too much stuff”. The property is a recent build and should be able to cope with daily life.

There is an urgent need for social landlords to survey all their properties for black mould and take immediate remedial action when it is found. And, for goodness sake, stop blaming the tenants for structural problems with properties. Get it fixed.

Letter to the Observer on black mould

Black mould is a horrific problem (Observer 19 March). Working with social tenants in my role as a unitary councillor, I have been shocked at how widespread the problem is, even in newer properties.

The root of the problem is always the same. Inadequate insulation, failing windows and doors, and a lack of ventilation.

One housing association we work with has been an exemplar since the inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak last year. We have identified priority cases where the mould is severe and the tenants have young children. The tenants have had extractors and window vents fitted. Problem walls have been treated with antifungal paint.

However, a neighbourhood officer for another housing association reverted to the standard myth. Black mould is the fault of the tenants. The suggestion is that tenants don’t keep their place clean. They create excess moisture by not having extractors on, even by boiling the kettle.

For the large majority of people affected by black mould, nothing could be further from reality. Tenants who regularly “bleach bomb” walls and those who repaint afterwards, get black mould back after a few weeks.

Social landlords need to stop making excuses for black mould in the properties they own. They need to bring them up to standard. To end the scandal of tenants’ health being damaged by mould. To prevent another tragic death of a young child.

2 thought on “It is time to make black mould in Ludlow history”
  1. Social housing problems may be being looked into but do not forget it can also be found in private accommodation where tenants could equally fear eviction if they complain.Perhaps the councilcan have a list of Landlords who,s property is inspected yearly to show they are up to standard.

    1. I agree with Nigel Hunter. The spotlight now needs to be turned on those private landlords who are letting properties little better than slums at extortionate rents. They can do this because tenants have no security and fear eviction if they complain . If they are evicted they would find it difficult to find alternative accommodation. Unbelievably some of these properties are ex social housing which has found its way onto the private (for profit) rental market.

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