By Mera Dhillon – member of the Street Law Project
Earlier this week, the Government of the United Kingdom announced that there are plans to deliver new legislation entitled Awaab’s Law to protect renters from unsatisfactory housing conditions, specifically against mould and house dampness. This is in memory of Awaab Ishak; a two-year-old boy who died in December 2020 of a respiratory infection from the mould in the rental run by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing in Manchester. Awaab’s parents had made several complaints of the mould and dampness in their home however were repeatedly ignored and unattended to by their landlords. Findings from the coroner’s report confirm that Awaab’s respiratory condition was caused from exposure to mould and damp toxins.
Awaab’s death has brought concern over the current private rental conditions of housing and has urged the government to implement better regulations to ensure the health and safety of renters. For example, “Recent research by the Building Research Establishment estimated that illness caused by poor housing costs the NHS in England £1.4 billion a year.”
Although there is legislation which aims to set housing standards, it is apparent that there are gaps within the system. For example, Mark Easton from BBC news writes: “There is a "decent homes" standard set by government, but the latest English housing survey commissioned by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities - found 3.5 million homes failed to reach the minimum requirement. Of those, 2.2 million have what is called a Category 1 hazard, meaning they present the highest risk of serious harm or death.”
As a second-year law student studying Land Law as well as a private renter, I found this to be an interesting topic as we learn about the unequal bargaining powers between landlord and renters; this topic coincides with difficulties renters face and advocates for better protections to be built within the law. Awaab’s law is an example of the move towards providing fair housing conditions and calls for accountability.
That raises the question, what exactly is Awaab’s law? According to Housing secretary Michael Grove the new proposed legislation will require landlords to fix reported health hazards within a specific time frame. This will amend the Social Housing Regulations Bill. These timelines and specifications are expected to come into effect this summer 2023. There will also be a review done on understanding the health impacts of mould and dampness which will be incorporated into future changes. It is devastating that it has taken the death of Awaab Ishak to point out that there are large deficiencies within England’s current housing conditions. There is hope is that these new changes in legislation will push landlords to take complaints of mould and house dampness seriously and prevent similar cases from re-occurring.
Grove, M. (2023) Government to deliver Awaab’s Law. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-deliver-awaabs-law