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Social housing speed read: Dealing with damp and mould in tenants’ homes

Following the inquest into the tragic death of Awaab Ishak, linked to damp conditions in his family's home, the Coroner’s Findings and Conclusion were published on 15 November 2022, alongside the Regulation 28 report.

The Report highlighted matters that emerged during the inquest which we hope may prevent similar deaths in the future:

  • The report highlighted an unwritten ‘policy’ sometimes operated by landlords to wait for agreement from the claimant (or their solicitors) in housing disrepair claims before carrying out any necessary repairs. (We would add that this is something upon which claimant solicitors commonly insist. However, there is no legal basis for it – whether in the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Condition Claims or the Civil Procedure Rules. A landlord has a right to carry out repairs it thinks necessary under the terms of the tenancy agreement or, if it is silent, S.11(6) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, as well as the Protocol. It does not need to wait for the claimant’s agreement.)
  • The Report also noted that there was no evidence that up to date relevant health information pertaining to the risks of damp and mould was easily accessible to the housing sector. (This is an important point and providers should look to Mr Gove’s letter dated 20 November 2022 for further guidance when assessing their properties for damp and mould.)

Government response

On 20 November 2022 the UK housing secretary, Michael Gove, published a letter to all providers of social housing stressing the seriousness of damp and mould in homes. Mr Gove warned that all social homes must meet the Decent Homes Standard and reminded providers that they must listen when tenants raise complaints.

Mr Gove advised that providers need to undertake an assessment of any category 1 and 2 damp and mould hazards in their stock and take rapid action to resolve them.

The Regulator of Social Housing subsequently wrote to the chief executives of large and small registered social housing providers seeking assurance that providers understand the issues related to damp and mould and are addressing risks to residents’ health.

Large RP requirements

RPs owning 1,000 homes or more are categorised as ‘large RPs’ and are required to provide the Regulator with details about their approach to assessing the extent of damp and mould issues affecting their properties, including how they assess the prevalence of category 1 and 2 damp and mould hazards. Large RPs will also need to provide details about their most recent assessment of the extent of damp and mould hazards in their homes and set out the action being taken to remedy any relevant issues to meet the Decent Homes Standard.

Submission of this information should be made by 19 December 2022.

The Regulator will review the submitted data and take “appropriate action” where it considers providers are not meeting the necessary standards.

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Small RP requirements

Small RPs, those with less than 1,000 homes, are expected to have a comprehensive understanding of the extent of potential damp and mould issues in their homes, and to be taking action to remedy them. If a small RP is not satisfied it has this understanding, then it should contact the Regulator immediately.

Next steps

Social housing providers must show that they have systems to identify and deal with damp and mould in their homes. As we enter into winter, together with the mounting pressure of the current cost of living crisis upon people’s ability to pay for essentials like heating, it is likely that complaints of mould and damp will increase – and those reports should be taken very seriously.

Providers may wish to review their responsive repairs procedures and consider how complaints relating to damp and mould should be recorded and prioritised. This might be coupled with a review of the information they make available to their customers as to the most effective use of heating and ventilation installations within their homes; and what other assistance could be provided to the most vulnerable customers.

Mr Gove has reiterated that the Social Housing Reform Bill will provide a rigorous new regime which will hold all landlords accountable for the standard of their homes and the services they provide to tenants. Further, the Regulator will proactively inspect landlords and will have the power to issue unlimited fines and it is important providers are aware of this going forward.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do to hesitate to contact Simon Thirtle, or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

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.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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