Tragic case must be wake-up call for landlords
A lesson must be learned from the recent tragic case of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died after his health was compromised by mould growing in the rented home where he lived.
Both private landlords and providers of social housing are being urged to go above and beyond when it comes to maintenance and repair responsibilities.
At the inquest into the toddler’s death, the coroner heard that Rochdale Boroughwide Housing had taken no action, despite Awaab’s father reporting the problem repeatedly over a period of years. Ruling that the child’s death was caused by exposure to mould in the one-bedroom housing association flat he shared with his parents in Greater Manchester, the coroner said the incident should be a “defining moment” for the UK’s housing sector.
Those sentiments have been echoed by Government housing minister Michael Gove who has said: “Every single person in this country, irrespective of where they’re from, what they do or how much they earn, deserves to live in a home that is decent, safe and secure.”
Landlords have a legal responsibility and duty of care to make sure a property is free of damp and mould, among other things, under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 but interior condensation and damp in the property may arise through the actions of the tenant, such as lack of ventilation.
There is also a regulatory impetus for housing associations and local authority landlords to act. Following the Rochdale case, the Regulator of Social Housing has written to registered providers of social housing, highlighting their responsibility to take action to protect tenants from hazardous damp and mould.
The regulator has said that all social landlords will need to provide evidence to show they have systems in place to deal with damp and mould issues and manage health risks to their tenants.
Esther Marshall, Member in the Dispute Resolution team, said:
“Rather than look to shift the blame, landlords are being encouraged to work with tenants to resolve problems. If no structural problem can be identified, such as rising damp or leaking roofs and gutters, damp and mould might arise from lack of heating or from condensation caused by drying clothes inside.
The problem is likely to be high on the agenda in the coming winter with tenants expected to turn down, or even turn off, their heating in the face of record fuel prices, which is likely to create or exacerbate problems with damp. The solution could be as simple as fitting an extractor, or making sure ventilation isn’t blocked. Further regulation is on the horizon, with the Social Housing Regulation Bill which is passing through Parliament. But whether you are a private landlord or managing social housing, this regrettable case should certainly be a wake-up call to ensure you do right by your tenants before it’s too late.”