Housing associations can save millions with humidity alert

Repair of damage from damp can cost millions of Danish kroner. Resident behaviour is often one of the reasons for the increasing frequency of damage from damp in Danish housing associations, but such cases are not covered by insurance.

Remotely read humidity meters can monitor humidity and alerts can catch the problem at an early stage for the benefit of both residents and the insurance premium. As insurance adviser, Willis every year sees thousands of flats with damage from damp which needs repair.

”The frequency of damage from damp not caused by fire or burst pipes is clearly increasing. We see more and more damage caused by resident behaviour,” says Poul Ørum, deputy director at Willis.

In his view, several factors contribute to the increasing frequency of damage from damp in social housing, co-operative housing and housing associations.

”These days, the entire family leaves for school and work immediately after showering, leaving the flat damp all day. That causes quite a few humidity and mould issues. We see many mould cases as a result of the residents using the home wrongly or not in the way for which it was built,” Poul Ørum explains and adds:

”Many residents are not aware of their own behaviour. We also see damage from damp caused by residents drying washing inside without airing the room.”

The problem with the increasing frequency of damage from damp is that the housing associations are only insured against humidity and mould in the form of consequential damage, for instance when a burst pipe or a fire in the property causes subsequent water and humidity damage. In other words, the housing associations cannot insure against resident behaviour.

”Repairing one instance of damage from damp typically costs at least DKK 50,000. We have seen damage from damp costing several million kroner. Some cases have been so serious that new build has had to be demolished because of failure to monitor humidity levels during construction and housing associations cannot insurance against this. They have to pay themselves,” Poul Ørum says.

Humidity measuring makes financial sense
As insurance adviser, Willis’ task is to advise for instance housing associations about building maintenance and repair of damage which may affect the associations’ insurance premium and finances. To provide the best advice, Willis therefore collaborates with Brunata and other professional suppliers which can help housing assocations avoid for instance damage from humidity.

Among other things, Brunata offers remotely read humidity meters which on a daily basis register the relative humidity in the flats, with an online humidity alert which provides direct notification when the humidity is too high. In this way, the housing associations can easily monitor the atmospheric humidity and act immediately.

There is a quick return on the investment in humidity meters compared with the cost of repairing damage. According to Poul Ørum, the property industry as a whole could save several million kroner a year by installing humidity meters and alerts to monitor humidity and catch problems at an early stage.

Measuring humidity and alerts at too high atmospheric humidity will also positively influence the insurance premiums of the many housing organisations, housing associations and blocks of flats.

”Initially, installation of humidity meters with alert can result in stabilisation of the insurance premium so that it does not increase. If it can be proven that the humidity meters genuinely relieve the problem by reducing the frequency of damage from damp, the insurance premium may be reduced, resulting in lower insurance costs,” he explains.

Healthy interior climate means happy, healthy residents
Remotely read humidity meters and online humidity alert also provide administrators and caretakers with information about the humidity patterns in the flats without having to visit every single one.

”Housing associations will have more satisfied customers because they provide the residents with a better experience. When humidity is measured to avoid mould issues, allergies and sick children, the housing association demonstrates its desire to create a healthy environment,” Poul Ørum says.

Marie-Louise Pind, a lawyer at Homan who specialises in mould fungus cases, has personal experience of how seriously families can be affected by humidity and mould. She has heard stories of families suffering from headaches, mucosal irritation, coughs, rash, reduced lung function and chronic illnesses such as asthma.

”Over the years, I have seen hundreds of cases involving serious mould fungus. In addition to the health issues, there are many consequent problems both financial and in terms of worry. Inevitably, it takes a while to settle a case and many have to leave their homes. That seriously impacts on the families and is a traumatic process,” she says and adds:

”In many cases, resident behaviour is not the only cause of mould fungus attacks, but if humidity and mould damage caused by resident behaviour can be pre-empted by a humidity meter with alert, the residents can avoid being in such a traumatic situation. With an alert, a landlord can discover when things are going wrong far sooner than currently and enter into a dialogue with the residents about how to ensure a good interior climate. A lot of money can be saved by pre-empting problems.”

Her views are echoed by Poul Ørum, who thinks the Brunata solution helps ensure a good collaboration between tenants and housing association, because the association administration or caretaker can react quickly, provide good advice and thus prevent that residents get ill.


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