Rising damp – taking zero tolerance with data

7th December 2021

Paul Berry, Head of Product Management at Civica says a data focused approach is the best way to improve homes for residents

The latest Housing Ombudsman spotlight report on Damp and Mould clearly challenges landlords to adopt best practice and shift from a reactive to proactive approach to cases. The human cost is clearly spelled out, with the focus on the distress and disruption cases can cause to residents, as well as concerns about effects on health.

There are costs to landlords too, with possibly the highest being the impact on the relationship with the resident as they are faced with the ongoing issue every day.

So, what could a proactive, data driven and risk-based approach to damp and mould look like in practice?

Using a person-centred view, while being able to easily link across a broad range of data relating to the property, provides a single view which is key to identifying patterns of risk. Fuel poverty, for example, can exacerbate situations where buildings are perhaps more prone to damp and mould.

Technology has a role in the analysis of this data with machine learning providing the potential to unlock much greater insight than a purely human approach. This is widely recognised as 96% of housing leaders we recently surveyed confirmed that machine learning has the potential to benefit the sector.

Gathering empirical data in larger volumes is a key factor in the successful application of machine learning and can also be supported by technology. IoT is tried and tested in many sectors and sensor devices are increasingly cost-effective, ubiquitous in their availability and provide an efficient mechanism to harness vast quantities of data. Coupling sensors which capture temperature and humidity to view trends within a property, with the person-centred view of potential vulnerabilities, offers a strong combination on which to evaluate risk.

There are challenges - adoption of IoT technology in housing has been limited as organisations often find complexity of device choice and network management as significant barriers. Simplification is a challenge to suppliers and provision of ‘out of the box’ solutions could provide the answer.

Consent and transparency around the collection, use and ownership of data is critical with devices in homes, and this is likely to be even more pointed in situations where trust has been eroded. Even with transparency, honesty, sharing and engagement, there will undoubtedly be challenges for landlords in these situations. However, the benefits to both landlord and resident can be clearly recognised.

Technology such as our Cx software supports landlords with a single platform for housing, designed from the ground up to be person centric and provides housing, contractor, and asset management information in a single database to give one source of the truth across all areas.

Improved workflow can provide organisations with a flexible and efficient way to process disrepair cases. This can include automatic communications to residents to provide transparency on progress, automatically allocating tasks to the right people at the right time and escalating to ensure service levels are adhered to. This supports organisations to resolve issues quickly and efficiently for their residents and reduce the risk of maladministration cases in the future.