Damp and mould in the home – new government guidance and revisions
3rd October, 2023
Following the coroner’s findings in the Awaab Ishak inquest, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (“DLUHC”) has published new guidance to assist landlords and tenants in understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home.
Two-year-old Awaab Ishak sadly passed away in December 2020 from a respiratory condition that was caused by mould in the flat where he lived with his parents in Manchester. Following this, Ministers have announced that they are reviewing guidance on the adverse health effects of damp and mould and how they evaluate risks using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (“HHSRS”).
Updated Guidance and Proposed Revisions to the HHSRS
The first of the published documents is titled “Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home” which is largely aimed at social housing providers and their workforce. The guidance sets out expectations of how landlords and providers should respond to reports of damp and mould and encourages them to be more proactive. It is recommended that this is done by having clear processes in place, taking a preventative approach and offering support to tenants to understand what they can do to reduce damp and mould.
The guidance sets out a firm message that tenants are not to be blamed for damp and mould as it is not a result of “lifestyle choices”; it is the responsibility of the landlords to identify and address the underlying cause of the problem.
The second publication details the proposed revisions to the HHSRS. This is the tool used to assess hazards in residential premises, with the potential hazards within being set out in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005.
There are presently 29 hazards and the severity of hazards within the HHSRS are rated using “Class I – IV”. It has been proposed to amalgamate some risks, reducing the total number from 29 to 21 and for the “Class” rating system be changed to descriptor terms ranging from “extreme” and “moderate”. The policy paper has been released with a view to publish a new statutory operating and enforcement guidance including a set of new case studies.
The effect on the Social Housing sector
Current policy means it is a case of waiting for tenant complaints to be settled before tackling a disrepair, but housing providers are going to need to be more proactive and vigilant to damp and mould in the home under the new guidance.
Private and social landlords should review their existing processes in line with the guidance and ensure they have adequate procedures in place to remain proactive in protecting the health and wellbeing of their tenants, especially when the new hazard categories are released. Housing providers should ensure they are clear on the thresholds when assessing damp and mould risk in housing as failure to do so could lead to risk of prosecution or financial penalties.
Damp and mould in the home must be monitored proactively by private and social landlords. Such instances need to be dealt with as an urgent matter, with the risks to tenant’s health being identified and assessed with the utmost priority.
If you have any concerns about a separate Social Housing matter, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert Social Housing lawyers.
Read the government guidance:
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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