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Government launches consultation on Awaab’s law to set timelines for repair by social housing landlords
12 Jan 2024
In this article pupil barrister Dharsha Jegatheeswaran outlines the consultation launched by the UK government on Awaab’s law which will help establish the timelines and requirements to be imposed on social housing landlords for repair of hazards by secondary legislation.
Dharsha Jegatheeswaran is currently undertaking a pupillage in housing and crime, whilst also gaining experience in immigration and inquests. She will be available for instruction beginning in April 2024.
On January 9th, the British government launched a consultation into Awaab’s law – a law passed in response to the tragic passing of two-year old Awaab Ishaq.[i] The law will impose stringent requirements including timescales for social housing providers to investigate and repair damp and mould.
On 15 November 2022, a coroner’s inquest found that two-year old Awaab Ishaq died as a result of a severe respiratory condition due to prolonged exposure to severe mould in the home he lived in with his parents. Their home was on a Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) estate, and RBH had ignored repeated complaints about the mould which began as early as 2017. [ii]
Awaab’s tragic death is sadly only one example of the severe and sometimes fatal impacts of pervasive damp, mould and other hazards in social housing. In some cases, even where individuals have raised disrepair claims/counterclaims in court and judgments have been issued or Tomlin orders agreed for repairs to be undertaken, these orders are breached.
Awaab’s family, their lawyers, Shelter and Manchester Evening News, led a campaign for ‘Awaab’s law’ which would require social housing providers to investigate and repair damp and mould within specific timeframes. On 20 July 2023, with the support of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Awaab’s law became statute as part of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023.[iii]
Awaab’s law creates an implied term in social housing leases in England requiring registered providers of social housing to comply with requirements that will be set out in secondary legislation by the Secretary of State.[iv]
The current consultation will establish the specific timeframes that will be imposed by regulation as well as seek general input on requirements that could be prescribed. This is an important chance for individuals renting in the social housing sector as well as those who work in the sector to provide their input and ensure the timescales and requirements are effective in addressing issues of damp, mould and other health hazards. The regulations will also have a significant impact on how issues of disrepair are litigated in court.
Interested individuals and organisations[v] can participate in the consultation via an online survey which asks participants to answer specific questions on the proposals for the requirements and timescales. It may be helpful for lawyers, charities and community organisations in the sector to discuss the proposals with individuals who are living in social housing to support them to contribute. It is vital that the consultation is informed by the views of social housing tenants. To assist with this, the specific requirements and timeframes considered in the survey are detailed below. More information on the proposals and questions in the survey can be found on the consultation page here.
The consultation closes on 5 March 2024.
Specific requirements and timeframes being consulted on
A. Hazards considered by Awaab’s law
1. In addition to damp and mould, Awaab’s law should take into account the 29 health and safety hazards set out by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) (Housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) operating guidance: housing inspections and assessment of hazards – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)).
2. Hazards should be defined as “those that pose a significant risk to the health or safety of the actual resident of the dwelling.”
B. Investigation into hazards
3. If a social landlord is made aware of a potential hazard in a social home, they must investigate within 14 calendar days to ascertain if there is a hazard.
4. Medical evidence should not be required from residents to prove a hazard poses a risk to their health or safety.
C. Written summaries of findings
5. Following an investigation into a hazard, social landlords should provide a written summary to residents on the investigation’s findings.
6. The written summary should at a minimum specify:
a.How and when the investigation was conducted, and the job title of the individual who conducted the investigation.
b. Any following investigations that are required, and if so when they will take place
c. If a hazard was found and if so what.
d. Whether the hazard is likely to pose a significant risk to residents’ health or safety.
e. Additionally, if an identified hazard does pose a risk:
i. [If applicable] What temporary repairs are needed to make the property safe until the problem can be permanently rectified
ii. What the registered provider will do to permanently rectify the problem and the likely timescales for this
iii. How to contact the registered provider with any queries If a hazard is identified through the investigation that poses a significant and imminent risk of harm to the health or safety of an individual, we are proposing that a separate, shorter timescale will apply. More information on this subset of hazards (referred to as ‘emergency hazards’) can be found at Proposal 5.
- The written summary should be provided by the landlord to the resident within 48 hours.
D. Beginning’ repair works
8. If an investigation finds a hazard that poses significant risk to the health or safety of the resident, the registered provider must begin to repair the hazard within seven days of the report concluding.
9. In instances of damp and mould, the registered provider should take action to remove the mould spores as soon as possible.
10. ‘Beginning’ works would be defined as a “worker being on site physically starting to repair and rectify a hazard” irrespective of whether works are done by in-house workers, external contractors or both.
E. Completing repair works
11. Registered providers must satisfactorily complete repair works within a reasonable time period, and the resident should be informed of this time period and their needs considered.
F. Emergency repairs
12. A timescale for emergency repairs should be included in the legislation.
13. Social landlords should be required by law to action emergency repairs as soon as practicable and in any event, within 24 hours.
G. Suitable alternative accommodation
14. Landlords should arrange for residents to stay in temporary accommodation (at the landlord’s expense) if the property can’t be made safe within the specified timescales.
H. Potential defence for landlords
15. Awaab’s Law regulations should include provisions for a defence if landlords have taken all reasonable steps to comply with timeframes, but it has not been possible for reasons beyond their control.
[iv] Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, section 10A
[v] Anyone can participate in the consultation but the targeted individuals and groups are: residents of the social rented sector; local authority registered providers; other local authorities (not a registered provider); private registered providers of social housing; other social landlords (not a registered provider); arms-length management organisations (ALMO); tenant management organisations (TMO); resident representative groups; landlord representative groups; industry bodies; and charities (not a registered provider).
 Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, section 10A
 Anyone can participate in the consultation but the targeted individuals and groups are: residents of the social rented sector; local authority registered providers; other local authorities (not a registered provider); private registered providers of social housing; other social landlords (not a registered provider); arms-length management organisations (ALMO); tenant management organisations (TMO); resident representative groups; landlord representative groups; industry bodies; and charities (not a registered provider).Back to News