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Awaab’s Law: Private Rented Sector

Volume 733: debated on Monday 5 June 2023

Any preventable death of a child is heartbreaking. Awaab’s law will require social landlords to remedy hazardous conditions quickly. For private rentals, we have given councils strong powers to force landlords to remedy hazards, and the Secretary of State has made it clear that he expects councils to use them.

May I remind the House of the tragic case of Awaab Ishak? He was a two-year-old boy, living with his parents in a one-bedroom flat in Rochdale, who tragically and needlessly died following prolonged exposure to mould. Despite several complaints from his family over a number of years, his social landlord took no action and shamelessly blamed the extensive mould on the family. The coroner in Awaab’s case stated that damp and mould are not simply a social housing problem, but a significant issue in the private rented sector. My understanding is that the decent homes standard will not appear in the Renters (Reform) Bill and there is no equivalent to Awaab’s law either. Will the Secretary of State go back to the Department and put in proper measures to ensure that we have decent homes in the private rented sector?

I think the whole House is united in expressing our sincere sympathies about the tragedy that occurred in the case of Awaab Ishak. It is completely wrong that people are living in homes that do not meet decent home standards. I thank the hon. Gentleman for the debates that we have had in this place. We are improving the quality of properties all across the private rented sector. We are introducing a decent homes standard. We will do that at the first legislative opportunity and we will be the first Government ever to do so.

The Government’s lack of strategy to combat all forms of homelessness is failing our most vulnerable children. Over the past 13 years on the Government’s watch, the number of households in temporary accommodation has doubled to more than 100,000. That includes 127,000 individual children. The number of households with children in bed-and-breakfast accommodation for longer than the statutory maximum is up 196% on the previous year—many are in appalling conditions. That should shame everyone on the Government Benches. My question is simple: when on earth do they intend to do something about it?

The hon. Lady highlights the problem of homelessness, which, of course, the Government take extremely seriously. I point out to the Opposition that we have already introduced the Renters (Reform) Bill, which is the biggest reform of the private rented sector in a whole generation. That key measure will abolish section 21 evictions, which are one of the major causes of homelessness. We, on the Conservative Benches, are going to end them.