CIEH says the tragic death of Awaab Ishak highlights the need for better resourcing of EH professionals, who play a crucial role in tackling poor housing conditions
Social landlords will be forced to fix dampness, mould and other health hazards within strict time limits in new amendments to the Social Housing Regulation Bill in memory of Awaab Ishak. ‘Awaab’s Law’ will also strengthen the powers of the Housing Ombudsman to help landlords improve their performance.
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, announced the amendments earlier this month after meeting Awaab’s family in Rochdale. Two-year-old Awaab died in 2020 of a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp and mould in his home, managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.
“The tragic death of Awaab Ishak should never have happened,” said Gove. “He was inexcusably let down and his family repeatedly ignored. I want to pay tribute to Awaab’s family for their tireless fight for justice over the last two years.”
Landlords who continue to “drag their feet” over dangerous damp and mould will face the full force of the law, said Gove. “Our Social Housing Bill will enshrine tenants’ rights in law and strengthen the Housing Ombudsman and Regulator’s powers so that poor social landlords have nowhere to hide. Awaab’s Law will help to ensure that homes across the country are safe, decent and warm.”
Following Awaab’s death, the CIEH called for the simplification of the whole regulatory system to ensure tenants are aware of their rights under the system of laws designed to protect them. Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns said: “This tragic case illustrates the need for more awareness and better resourcing of the crucial role played by environmental health professionals in tackling poor housing conditions in all types of tenure and thereby reducing ill health and saving lives.”
The proposed amendments aim to increase standards in the social housing sector and hold landlords to account by law if they fail to provide a decent home to their tenants, with the new rules forming part of tenancy agreements.
“This should mean millions of social housing tenants will no longer have to live in damp and mouldy properties – something that seems the most basic of requirements in 2023.”
Jonathan Rolande, property expert and Founder of The National Association of Property Buyers, welcomed the intervention: “This should mean millions of social housing tenants will no longer have to live in damp and mouldy properties – something that seems the most basic of requirements in 2023.”
The Bill “should enforce timeframes that are realistic,” and “the process to fix these appalling properties should begin immediately,” Rolande added. “We hope measures will also soon be taken to improve standards in the private rental sector.”
A consultation later this year will establish the timeframes within which landlords must act to investigate hazards and make repairs, whilst new guidance tailored to the housing sector will be issued this summer.
Professor Paresh Wankhade, Professor of Leadership and Management and Director of Research at Edge Hill University, said this is “a welcome step” but added: “Whether this will help address underlying issues such as lack of legal aid for tenants, delays in the court system, proliferation of no-win-no-fees firms, challenges for non-English speaking migrants including the wider cultural and societal discrimination suffered by people with disabilities and from black and ethnic backgrounds in seeking safe and decent social housing, remains to be seen.”
Image credit: Shutterstock