Posted on 30 November 2023
To find out what happens on the ground when our customers report damp, mould and condensation (DMC), we followed Responsive Repairs Surveyor, Olivia, as she spent a morning carrying out her DMC inspections on our homes.
Olivia was all set to carry out three inspections, when I met her on a very cold and dreary November morning. The team’s schedulers book the appointments, and we met at the Old Laundry community centre as the homes were in Kennington and Stockwell. However, just as we were about to set off, Olivia received a call to say that one customer had to cancel as she had to go into work that morning, meaning that the schedulers would have to re-arrange.
On our way to the first home, Olivia told me about her career at Hyde. She started as an administrator in Property Services in 2018. After eight months she applied for funding to train as a surveyor, and did her Higher National Certificate (HNC) at Greenwich University, which took two years: “I was so lucky, as my studying was supported by loads of opportunities to go out and about with Property colleagues, where I learnt so much. This was so much better for me that just reading about it in books.”
Olivia looks after homes in Stockwell, Kennington and Dulwich. When she isn’t visiting homes, she works from one of our offices – she said she would much rather work from an office than from home, and loves speaking to people face to face.
The first inspection was on the Studley Estate. Olivia’s first job before entering the building was checking the proforma on her phone, to make sure that she had the correct details.
She explained that the majority of our homes in this area are similar – so the problems are consistent. For example, the buildings are all concrete, with little insulation.
Olivia said: “Our customers live behind these walls, and I want to make sure that they live in warm, safe homes.”
Before entering the building, Olivia checks the external walls and immediately spots a leaking overflow pipe.
She said: “I know that the property has damp issues, so this needs to be sorted straight away. The external bricks could become saturated, which is going to be make any DMC problems in the homes in this building worse.”
Olivia quickly emailed her supervisor, to explain the problem and said she expected plumbers to be on the scene within five minutes.
Checking DMC in our customers’ homes
Olivia then visited our customer, Mr Jones’s* home, who recently had DMC work carried out on his flat, and Olivia was carrying out a follow up visit. The original work had included establishing what was causing the mould and cleaning it away. We then repainted the wall and installed an extractor fan to make sure that the damp didn’t return.
Olivia took readings with her damp meter in the bathroom to make sure that the problem had been sorted out. Mr Jones was still worried about DMC, but Olivia could find no evidence of mould, and suggested that we install a dehumidifier to be on the safe side. Olivia said that she would visit the property again in three months.
On our way to the next inspection, I asked Olivia if she felt vulnerable visiting customers’ homes on her own.
She said: “Safety is my utmost priority. My lone worker device is always on, and I make sensible decisions. If I don’t feel comfortable when somebody opens the door (for example, if a customer starts shouting at me), I know that I can rebook. Also, at Hyde, we always look after each other. In this part of London, there are Hyde vans everywhere. There’s always a Hyde colleague about if I need to ask for help, or for somebody to attend with me. Plus, I always know if a property has been flagged as ‘two to attend’. My supervisor always makes himself available – so I know that I’m never on my own.”
Respecting our vulnerable customers
The next inspection was for our customer Vivien*, in Kennington, who was experiencing problems with DMC in her home. When we pulled up, Olivia explained that she knew all her blocks well, but she always did a run through of the building before entering a home. She checked the external wall, and could see some dark staining. She knew that the gutters had just been cleared, so this could mean a problem and would need to be investigated.
Vivien warmly welcomed us into her home, and explained that the wallpaper was coming off the wall in one of her bedrooms. Work had already been carried out, but the wallpaper had started lifting away again. Olivia went through some questions with Vivien, and tested the extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom. It turned out the fans weren’t working, so Olivia immediately raised a repair.
Olivia asked Vivien if she needed any extra support or help, and Vivien said that she sometimes struggled getting in and out of the bath. Olivia said that she would speak to the occupational therapist, and they would see if they could help Vivien with any adaptations.
Not done yet, on our way out, Olivia noticed that one of Vivien’s light switches was taped up, so Olivia quickly arranged for it to be changed.
Thank you Olivia for such a fascinating morning. It was great to see how closely we’re working with customers, not just in tackling DMC, but providing any extra help and support that they need.
*Not our customers’ real names