Under changes to the Social Housing Regulations Bill known as Awaab’s Law, the responsibilities of landlords to deal with issues such as damp and mould under a strict timeline will be introduced in the UK.
The changes to the law, named after Awaab Ishak, a toddler who died in social housing infected by mould function as a crackdown on damp and mould and mean that landlords will need to investigate and fix serious damp and mould problems within strict time limits. Awaab’s Law also gives additional powers to the housing ombudsman to enforce improved performance when addressing other issues that are already part of the bill.
The health issues of damp and mould became national news in 2022 after the death of the toddler Awaab Ishak who lived in social housing in Rochdale. The property where Awaab and his family lived had a serious mould problem, with patches growing throughout the property.
Mould can affect residents’ health in several different ways. The microscopic spores that are released by mould as it matures, and spreads are an allergen that can cause serious reactions in people. When the mould spores are inhaled, they can irritate the airways and cause difficulty breathing and trigger asthma like symptoms. Mould spores can also irritate skin causing itches and rashes as well as aggravating other conditions such as eczema.
Longer term exposure to mould can be particularly damaging to health. It can cause headaches, breathing difficulties, and immune system problems, particularly in small children and the elderly.
In cases where a housing association or social housing group manage many properties, dealing with mould can take a significant amount of time, which prolongs the exposure of residents and means that the health effects can be worsened.
At present, landlords have a responsibility to provide housing that is safe for residents and fit for habitation. Legislation for housing requires that if an issue with mould has arisen because of structural or physical defects with the property, such as a leak or rising damp, then the landlord must resolve the problem without significant delay.
Similarly, if mould has developed because of condensation caused by insufficient ventilation, then the landlord has a responsibility to fix the issue.
In cases where the mould has arisen as a result of tenant behaviour, then the landlord’s responsibilities are limited – an example of this might be if the house is not being heated during cold weather, or moisture is being created through drying clothes indoors or using non-standard heaters.
In the UK, the most common cause of mould is condensation. If a building has insufficient ventilation, humidity levels can build up in the air. Once moist air comes into contact with a cold surface such as an uninsulated wall or a window, the water vapour condenses into droplets on the surface. These droplets of water can soak through into the surface creating patches of damp that provide the ideal conditions for black mould to grow.
Rooms where a lot of water vapour is released into the air such as bathrooms and kitchens can quickly develop mould problems. Mould can temporarily be cleaned from walls and ceilings using dilute bleach or fungicide, but unless the underlying cause is properly dealt with, it will quickly grow back.
To prevent condensation from leading to problems with damp and mould, improving the ventilation is a key step. Extractor fans and whole house ventilation such as PIV systems (positive input ventilation) remove the humid air and prevent it spreading into colder areas where it can more easily cause condensation.
If you are concerned about the risk of mould in rental accommodation or social housing, our local ventilation specialists can help. Speak to a member of our team to discuss your needs or request a quote for ventilation in your properties.
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