How A Damp, Mouldy Home Can Hurt Your Health

This week’s ruling by a Coroner that two-year-old Awaab Ishak died of a respiratory condition caused by exposure to the mould in his flat has shaken the social housing industry and left politicians and advocates for healthy, safe homes demanding to know how such a thing could have happened in 2020 (the year Awaab died).

Housing Secretary, Michael Gove stated the toddler’s death was an “unacceptable tragedy.” He told the BBC:

“We all know that local authorities are facing challenging times when it comes to finance but, frankly, that is no excuse.”

“When you have got a situation where you have a young child in a house that is unfit for human habitation, it is a basic responsibility of the local authoritybut particularly the housing association – to make sure that people are in decent homes.”

“All this what-aboutery, all this ‘Oh, if only we had more government money’ – do your job, man.”

Mr Gove said he has also written to all providers of social housing in England referring to the Coroner’s report into Awaab Ishak’s death and stating that he expects landlords to have particular regard to damp and mould hazards. He also directed that social housing providers assess damp and mould issues affecting their properties and detail the action plan to take to fix the problem.

Like all our clients who are battling damp and mould issues, Awaab’s father, repeatedly raised the issue with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) but no action was ever taken.

The Coroner who investigated the case said the little boy’s death was a “defining moment” for the housing sector in terms of knowledge and awareness of the issues surrounding dampness and mould.

Even though England is a wealthy country, millions of people are living in damp, mouldy homes. The latest English housing survey – commissioned by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – found that 5% of homes in the social rented sector have an HHSRS Category 1 hazard and dampness and mould affect 4% of socially rented dwellings.

Below we explain how damp and mould compromises human health and what a Housing Law Solicitor can do to ensure your social housing provider fixes the problem and pays compensation.



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How do damp and mould become a problem in houses?

Condensation is the most common cause of damp in rented properties. Everyday activities such as cooking, showering, and drying clothes indoors can lead to dampness problems if your home is not adequately ventilated. Penetrating damp is where water comes through the walls or roof, normally thanks to leaks, overflowing gutters, or plumbing problems. Rising damp occurs when groundwater soaks up into the structure of the house. This is often a problem for properties built before 1875.

Mould is a fungi caused by damp conditions. Condensation and penetrating damp can result in serious black mould growth. This type of mould releases spores which can be detrimental to your family’s health.

damp_mould_council_house_Can Hurt Your Health
What are the health risks of living with damp and mould?

Mould spores are microscopic structures (around half the width of a human hair), meaning they float through the air unseen. Mould spores are an allergen, meaning exposure can result in an allergic reaction.

According to the NHS, people who live in a damp and mouldy home have a higher risk of respiratory infections/problems, allergies, and asthma. Mould spores can also compromise the immune system. The following people are particularly vulnerable:

  • babies and children
  • older people
  • those with existing skin problems, such as atopic eczema
  • those with respiratory problems, such as allergies and asthma
  • those with a weakened immune system, such as those having chemotherapy

Nobody should be forced to live in a mouldy, damp home. Your landlord has a legal obligation to fix the problem. You may also be entitled to claim compensation if your landlord has been unresponsive to your concerns or failed to undertake the repairs properly.

How can I get my landlord to fix damp and mould issues?

By the time most of our clients come to us they have spent months or even years trying in vain to get their social housing landlord to fix the damp and mould problems in their home. However, the sooner you contact a Solicitor, the faster the problem will be taken care of.

Currently, the two main laws protecting tenants and landlords are the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Housing Act 2004. Landlords are responsible for the maintenance and repair of:

  • The structure and exterior of the property; including walls, floors, window frames, drains, and pipes
  • Water pipes, gas pipes and electrics
  • Basins, sinks, baths, toilets
  • Fixed heaters and water heaters

If the damp and mould present in your home are caused by any of the above, your landlord has a legal obligation to fix the issue within a reasonable timeframe.

Tenants also have responsibilities. You must ensure you keep your home well-ventilated to prevent damp and mould from developing and spreading. However, many of our clients are unable to ventilate their homes properly due to disrepair which is the landlord’s responsibility to fix. If this is the case, we can organise a structural engineer to view the property and provide a breakdown of the repairs that need to be made to make your home healthy and safe.

Not only can a Housing Disrepair Solicitor force your social housing provider to fix the issue causing damp and mould, but they can also ensure your claim gets to the front of the queue in terms of repair and maintenance priorities. Furthermore, they will check to ensure the work is done properly and compensation is awarded to you for any damage you have endured due to living in substandard housing.

Concluding comments

In the 2022 Queen’s Speech* , Michael Gove unveiled the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill 2022-23 which is currently at the House of Commons Committee Stage. This Bill aims to implement most of the recommendations set out in the 2020 social housing white paper and fulfil the 2019 manifesto pledge to empower residents, provide greater redress, better regulation, and improve the quality of social housing. Among the many changes incorporated into the Bill include:

  • Underperforming social housing landlords will be subject to Ofsted-style inspections.
  • The regulator will be able to have emergency repairs conducted at the landlord’s expense.
  • Every social housing provider must appoint a health and safety lead who will monitor if the provider is complying with health and safety rules.

Although this is a positive step towards improving social housing, as evidenced by Awaab Ishak’s tragic and unnecessary death, social landlords must immediately step up their responses to damp and mould concerns voiced by their tenants.

How Nicholson Jones Sutton Solicitors can help you with damp and mould repairs

Nicholson Jones Sutton Solicitors are one of the few housing disrepair solicitors across England and Wales who have a professional and dedicated legal team to ensure that your repairs are completed and more importantly get your home into the excellent condition that you deserve.

We can help you with the following aspects:

  • Instruct a surveyor to assess the disrepair and provide a report to use as evidence
  • If necessary, legally ensure your housing association or council completes all your repairs.
  • Claim compensation for you for the period of time your property has been in disrepair

Nicholson Jones Sutton Solicitors are housing disrepair claim experts, assisting tenants nationwide on a NO WIN NO FEE basis to compel their council to conduct crucial repairs to their properties, in addition to recovering compensation for the period of time repairs have been delayed.

Our team has decades of combined experience in dealing with Housing Disrepair Claims. We are sympathetic, understanding, and are here to help you every step of the way.

Call us on 0800 093 3393 to discuss your claim.

*This took place in May 2022 when Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne.


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