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Social Housing Quality

Volume 743: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2024

On 21 December 2020, just days after his second birthday, Awaab Ishak died having suffered a severe respiratory condition. The coroner’s inquest, in November 2022, concluded that his death had been caused by mould in his social home in Rochdale. His parents had repeatedly raised concerns with their landlord about the poor state of the one-bedroom flat. Others, including health professionals, also raised the alarm on their behalf. Not only were these requests for help ignored but the family was blamed for causing the lethally dangerous conditions in which they were forced to live. Social landlords like Rochdale Boroughwide Housing are not altruistic amateurs but professional organisations providing a service; it is their responsibility to meet basic repair requirements to keep residents safe in their homes.

In order to enforce this responsibility, and to ensure that no other family suffers such a tragic bereavement owing to a landlord’s failure to address health and safety risks, the Government introduced Awaab’s law as part of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023. This landmark legislation, which entered the statute book on 20 July last year, will improve the quality of social housing accommodation and redress the balance between social landlord and tenant, giving residents a stronger voice.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Government have launched our consultation on how Awaab’s law should operate in practice, including the specific requirements it will place on social landlords. For the first time, landlords will have to meet regulatory requirements on how quickly they must act to address hazards such as damp and mould in their tenants’ homes. The new requirements will form part of all social housing tenancy agreements, so that landlords who fail to fulfil their duties and miss timescales for repairs can be held to account by law.

The proposed requirements, which have been drawn up with the support of Awaab Ishak’s family, include:

exacting timescales for investigations and repair works when hazards in social homes are reported;

robust recording by social landlords of actions taken in response to hazards, and the issuing of written summaries of investigation findings to residents;

and the offering of suitable alternative temporary accommodation in circumstances where it is unsafe for residents to remain in a property.

Following the consultation, we will introduce secondary legislation as soon as possible to bring Awaab’s law into force.

I wish to pay tribute to Awaab’s parents, Faisal Abudullah and Aisha Amin, for their courageous and tireless campaign for justice, not only for their son but all residents of social housing. It was my honour to introduce Awaab’s law in their son’s name. I would also like to put on record my thanks to the Manchester Evening News and Shelter for supporting this cause, and to the 177,820 members of the public who supported the family’s petition.

Finally, while Awaab’s law is at the heart of the Government mission to improve the quality of social housing, this is just one part of the biggest Government reforms to social housing in a decade. Since 2010, there has been a steady improvement in the quality of social housing with a reduction in the proportion of non-decent social rented homes from 20% in 2010 to 10% in 2021. We are committed to taking further action on a number of other fronts, including consulting on a new minimum energy efficiency standard for the social rented sector; consulting on a competence and conduct standard for social housing staff, including professional qualification requirements for senior housing managers and executives; publishing the Government response to our consultation on new electrical safety requirements for the social rented sector; and we have also consulted on new directions to the regulator of social housing relating to the provision of information on tenants’ rights and complaints. This Government continue to be committed to naming and shaming social housing providers who have failed their residents and breached regulatory standards, including Camden Council’s fire safety failures across thousands of their homes. Collectively, these measures support our ambition to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030, drive up standards across the social rented sector and rebalance the relationship between landlord and resident.