The damage mould does to a housing provider’s reputation

Adam Fudakowski, CEO, Switchee

Everybody in housing considers the damage that mould does to a property’s aesthetics, to the residents who live there and in the most extreme cases to the structure of the building.

What most do not consider is the reputational damage that comes along with cases of poor mould diagnosis and treatment. A housing provider might not initially consider its reputation when it comes to internal maintenance matters, but there are three main areas where this can have a huge effect. It can affect not only the efficiency of the organisation when it comes to their residents but also in what partnerships with other organisations are available as well as its relationship with the government.

Mould does damage to your relationship with residents

When a resident experiences systematic mould in their property, their first port of call is to contact you. Residents put their trust in you to provide an appropriate response to deal with mould promptly. This faith is slowly gained and quickly lost – so small failures along the way can very quickly begin to erode this trust. When this relationship eventually breaks down, this does not just affect the way residents view your building and maintenance teams. It significantly increases the likelihood of hostile responses to any annual boiler maintenance visits, resident liaison visits and direct communications they receive. It also increases the likelihood of legal proceedings through an act like the Fitness for Human Habitation act. This has potentially the highest monetary value, as early cases have proved to be extremely costly for housing providers. Further to all of this, it also increases the likelihood that they will seek revenge through negative interviews with the press similar to the treatment Sanctuary Housing received from the tv show ‘Dispatches’.

Mould destroys the trust needed with residents to efficiently provide affordable housing

Mould causes reputational damage in the press

When a housing problem is visible – like mould – it can easily snowball into a serious PR disaster in the press. Over the last five years, there have been countless examples of housing providers being lampooned in the press for poor conditions. The most recent being Sanctuary Housing – with an entire episode of the Channel 4 show Dispatches being dedicated to the failures in their maintenance processes. This is hugely damaging to a housing providers reputation and requires the organisation to go out on a huge and expensive PR campaign to counteract the negative publicity. It also amplifies the damage done to your relationship with your residents as isolated incidents become linked as part of a pattern of neglect in resident’s minds.

Mould damages your relationship with the government

Most of those who work in housing would agree that in recent years government policy has generally not sided with housing providers. Significant budget cuts, unproductive loan rules and limits on spending have significantly reduced the efficiency of housing providers in growing their portfolios. When a mould case grows to the point of national press coverage – for example with L&Q in 2017, Catalyst in 2018 and Sanctuary Housing in 2019 – most politicians are more than happy to side with residents in a very public way. It becomes difficult to receive the necessary assistance from the government by way of funding and grants for various types of projects when that government is publicly decrying the condition of your properties. This can have long-term effects on the viability of many housing providers often resulting in them being merged with much larger housing providers or having to rebrand to avoid the reputation that has now very publicly been created for them.

    Mould doesn’t just damage a property

    The reputational damage from a public mould claim can be devastating and is often one of the most expensive elements of a public crusade against a housing provider. Avoiding the mould occurrences in the first place is the safest way to protect yourself from these claims. Switchee helps you to combat mould by pre-emptively alerting you to conditions where mould is likely to arise. This gives you the tools you need to get in and fix the problem before it becomes a public relations disaster. This is done automatically through our smart thermostat and helps direct resources to the most pressing cases of mould. It also helps you identify the route cause through its sensor analysis – whether that is failing insulation, a lack of ventilation or resident behaviour.


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