The government has announced that it will conduct a rapid review of guidance to landlords about health risks from damp and mould. The announcement follows the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak last year, after which the coroner stated that damp and mould in the family’s social housing flat was responsile for the boy’s death..
The housing and health secretaries, Michael Gove and Steve Barclay, havre now said that new guidance for landlords would be published by the summer. The UK Health Security Agency will be involved in the review.
The coroner for north Manchester, Joanne Kearsley, instructed ministers to take action “to prevent future deaths” after she concluded last November that Awaab Ishak’s death was caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his parents’ flat. The property was rented from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, a social landlord.
The inquest prompted Rochdale Boroughwide Housing to inspect every property on the estate, and findings have now been revealed by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH). It says that as many as four in five properties were affected by damp and mould that RBH was unaware of – with the worst cases amounting to a ‘category one’ hazard. Tenants described similar conditions at their homes, with stubborn battles against damp and mould, and children suffering breathing issues.
Following the damning conclusions of the inquest into Awaab Ishak’s death, the coroner told government ministers that the 16-year-old housing safety rating system did not reflect the known health risks posed by damp and mould. Ms Kearsley said that the data sheet in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which gives guidance to landlords on identifying and protecting against potential risks and hazards to health and safety in properties, does not reflect the current known risks to health of damp and mould. She also pointed out that private renters do not have access to the housing ombudsman to have complaints investigated independently, and said it was unacceptable that social housing landlords delayed fixing faults until they were forced to legally.
Michael Gove said: “We will work closely with Awaab’s family to deliver tougher laws on damp and mould. Awaab Ishak’s death was a tragedy, which shone a light on the appalling conditions that can exist in the social housing sector and we must do all we can to ensure it never happens again.”
He added: “We have already taken tough action against failing landlords – blocking Rochdale Boroughwide Housing from receiving taxpayers’ money to build new homes until it can prove it is a responsible landlord and warning others that they will face similar consequences unless they dramatically raise standards.”
He further stated that the government hopes that its social housing bill and Decent Home Standards will strengthen the powers of the regulator to ensure that tenants are listened to, and that their concerns are dealt with quickly and fairly, promising “with unlimited fines for failing landlords”. The review is nearing completion and the government says it will publish a summary of the findings and set out the next steps by the spring.
Reports of mould in social housing in Aberdeen have increased by 12% with almost 2,000 inspections recorded.
Figures obtained by The Sunday Post show that Aberdeen City Council carried out 1,841 inspections following reports of damp or mould growth between 2021-2022. This is a significant 12% spike in figures compared with 1,649 inspections in 2019-2020.
The Sunday Post revealed that reports of damp across Scotland have increased by 20% with some tenants even being hospitalised with breathing difficulties.
in Coventry, three residential tower blocks look set to be demolished after years of residents dealing with ‘horrendous’ mould, damp and flooding. Citizen Housing recently confirmed that they are reviewing the future of the flats on Ferrers Close in Tile Hill.
And in Haringey, the ouncil issued a statement saying: “We were all horrified to hear of the death of Awaab Ishak who sadly passed away as a result of damp and mould in his home not being properly addressed.
“We want all our residents to know that we take this issue very seriously and that we are working hard to get a full assessment of the position in Haringey – in our council homes, for those in temporary accommodation, but also in the private rented sector locally. The safety of our residents is, and always will be, our number one priority and rest assured we are taking every measure possible to improve housing standards across the borough.”
“We know that damp and mould are also an issue in the private rented sector. We are determined to improve private rented housing standards and have been taking steps for some time to do this including introducing both HMO and selective property licensing schemes.”
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