Social Housing Speed Read – Awaab’s Law: The Government’s Proposals
25th January, 2024
In December 2020, Awaab Ishak, a two-year old child living with his parents in their affordable home, sadly passed away from a respiratory condition which was found to be caused by damp and mould in the flat.
Following on from this, the government announced that stringent changes had to be made to ensure that this tragedy could not happen again. We have previously commented upon the guidance that was issued by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in 2023 following the coroner’s findings in Awaab’s inquest.
The recently enacted Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 introduced “Awaab’s Law.” The Act amends the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 in order to grant the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) increased powers and the ability to impose tighter regulations on social housing providers.
The government has vowed to take action to ensure that hazards in social housing that are detrimental to the health and safety of residents are resolved quickly and efficiently.
Awaab’s Law will introduce two key requirements:
- The implementation of specific timeframes and procedures for addressing hazards in the home
- An implied term within social housing tenancy agreements that Registered Providers will comply with those requirements.
New timelines to respond to hazards
The consultation addresses the following:
- Initial investigations: landlords will have 14 calendar days to investigate any hazards (as defined by the Housing Health and Safety Rating Standards in the Housing Act 2004) once they are made aware of them (including by telephone, email or by their own investigations).
- Report following initial investigations: after the 14 day period, a landlord will have 2 days to produce a report to the tenant upon the results of the investigation. This should include: when and how the investigation took place, who conducted the investigation, if a hazard was found, how the hazard should be rectified, whether the hazard poses a risk to the tenant’s health and safety and the estimated timescales for repairs.
- Timescales to begin repairs: landlords will then have 7 days to begin the relevant works or repairs.
- Completing repairs: repairs must then be completed within a ‘reasonable’ period. A ‘reasonable’ period is dependent both on tenant need and the nature and scale of the hazard.
- Emergencies: action must be taken within 24 hours after the 14 day inspection period, and there will be no requirement to wait for a written report. It is likely that emergencies will include gas leaks, lack of water supply, exposed wiring, broken external frameworks and prevalent damp and mould impacting a tenant’s respiratory process.
- Delays and decants: where a landlord is unable to meet the required timelines (for example if there is a shortage of labour or materials) they must provide alternative temporary accommodation until the works or repairs are completed.
The consultation recognises that Registered Providers may experience problems in gaining access to properties in order to carry out investigations and repairs. The consultation proposes that landlords must work with tenants to agree suitable dates and times for access, and make at least 3 attempts to contact the tenant to arrange access.
Where access is not provided at an agreed time, a notice should be left for the tenant confirming that an attempt was made and providing contact details. However it will be the landlord’s responsibility to contact the tenant and offer an alternative slot.
A defence for non-compliance will be available where a landlord can demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with Awaab’s Law. Landlords are encouraged to keep clear records of their efforts to comply with these requirements – both in terms of identifying and completing works, and access.
The consultation will run from 9 January until 5 March 2024. After the government has received all the feedback from the consultation, secondary legislation shall be introduced to bring Awaab’s Law into force.
Effect on Social Housing
The sector has been on notice for some time now that regulations of this type would be implemented. Many Registered Providers have been proactively reviewing their policies and processes in responding to and dealing with potential hazards, such as damp and mould, in readiness for it.
However the proposed timescales will inevitably present challenges in capacity and the speed of response. The consultation acknowledges that the “burden is the speed at which repairs need to be responded to”. The requirements will necessitate a wholesale review of how organisations categorise, prioritise and mobilise certain repairs, and how this will be balanced against non-urgent works and cyclical maintenance. Appropriate training should also be provided to those operatives who will carry out investigations and make recommendations as to necessary works to deal with hazards.
If you believe you are impacted by anything mentioned in the article above, or you have any concerns about a separate Social Housing matter, get in touch with our expert Social Housing lawyers.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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