CAMPAIGNERS have demanded “serious, concerted action” from politicians after new statistics revealed at least 11,772 complaints of damp or mould were reported by social housing tenants in the last year, with reports soaring by almost 20 per cent since before the pandemic.

The Scottish Government has been urged to better fund local authorities to be able to improve housing stock.

It comes as landlords have been urged by a watchdog to “act now” to address issues in social housing, after the regulator found tens of thousands of properties have “notable” damp and mould.

Statistics revealed through  Freedom of Information requests  found there were at least 11,772 instances of damp and mould  reported in social housing in Scotland in 2021-22.

Read more: Glasgow council warns landlords over damp and mould

But the complete figure is likely to  be even higher, with some local authorities, including Glasgow, not responding to the request or having outsourced managingsocial housing.

The number of complaints has increased by 18% since 2019-20, before the pandemic hit and come after the death of toddler who was exposed to mould.

Scottish Conservative shadow  social justice, housing and local  government secretary, Miles Briggs, said: “These figures are deeply concerning and are likely to be even higher than what has been uncovered.

“It is simply unacceptable that a minimum of nearly 12,000 instances of damp and mould were reported in just one year alone.

“What is particularly worrying is that the number of reports has shot up by almost a fifth since prior to the pandemic, and SNP ministers must ensure they do not let this situation spiral out of control.”

Read more: 'Beggars belief': Fury at Wheatley housing fail over damp and mould

He added: “Not only are SNP ministers failing to meet their  housebuilding targets, they are failing to ensure our councils have enough resources and funding to support those living in social housing.

“Given the current cost-of-living crisis, many people simply will not be able to afford to deal with these issues. These figures must be an urgent wake-up call for ministers to guarantee that people will not have to endure living alongside damp and mould.”

In Edinburgh, the number of mould and damp complaints have  soared 10-fold from just 122 in 2019-20 to 1,029 in 2021-22.

In West Dunbartonshire, the number of reports have almost  doubled from 496 in 2019-20 to 958 in 2021-22.

Jane Meagher, Edinburgh City Council’s housing, homelessness  and fair work convener, said: “We improved the way we respond to reports of mould and dampness in June 2021, and now carry out a survey every time a concern is reported, leading to an increase in the number of surveys completed.

“We want to make sure that our tenants and residents live in safe homes where their health is a priority. I would urge any tenant with issues around mould or damp in their home to get in touch with the council so these can be investigated and appropriate action taken.”

But campaigners have called for action from politicians and an end  to short-term sticking plasters.

Findings from the Regulator of  Social Housing (RSH), published  yesterday, into its investigation into conditions in the sector in  England and Wales come after the death of two-year-old Awaab  Ishak, who was exposed to mould  in a housing association flat.

The toddler died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition 
caused by mould at his home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

His parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, repeatedly complained about the mould.

Following a coroner’s report last year, the RSH asked providers of social housing to submit evidence about the extent of damp and mould in tenants’ homes and their approach to tackling it.

Aditi Jehangir, secretary for Living Rent, said: “For reports of mould to have risen a fifth overall and nearly tenfold in Edinburgh over the last two years demonstrates the need for councils, social housing providers and landlords to stop putting short-term measures in place and take serious, concerted action to deal with the epidemic of mould in our housing.

Read more: How do you get rid of damp and condensation?

“But these numbers mask the real story. For every reported case of mould, there are many other tenants who don’t bother to report their mould, as they know that councils and landlords continue to completely fail to deal with the issue.

“In the worst cost-of-living crisis in generations, with freezing temperatures outside, tenants cannot just be told to ‘open the windows’. Furthermore, over the last few months we have seen the awful consequences of landlords blaming tenants for the structural issues and failing to take tenant’ concerns seriously in the death of Awaab Ishak.

“With over half of homes in some state of disrepair, the government needs to ensure that councils have funding to ensure homes are fit to be called homes and that they legislate to ensure serious penalties for landlords who fail to provide quality housing.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s social rented homes have improved over a number of years to meet the Scottish housing quality standard, with more tenants living in warmer, safer and drier homes.

“This data shows fewer than 12,000 instances of damp and mould were reported in social housing in Scotland last year, out of over 617,000 social homes representing less than two per cent of stock.

“We are committed to tackling disrepair in housing and driving a culture in which good maintenance is given a high priority.

“The Scottish Housing Regulator wrote to all social landlords on December 1, 2022 on the importance of having appropriate, proactive systems to identify and deal with any reported cases of mould and damp timeously and effectively.”

A spokesperson for Cosla, the umbrella organisation for Scottish councils, said: “It is clear there have been challenges over recent years such as the pandemic, adverse weather and tenants using heating less in their properties due to rising energy costs, that have caused mould and damp issues.

“These factors have been exacerbated by the fact that councils have so many services competing for reduced resources in light of recent budget settlements from Scottish Government “That said, councils are working proactively with the SFHA and the CIH to publish a best practice guidance for the social housing sector to provide consistency of approaches to managing mould and damp. This is because ensuring the health and wellbeing of tenants is of the utmost importance to councils as landlords.”