Burnley MP backing new Awaab’s Law to crack down on damp and black mould in rented social housing in memory of two-year-old Rochdale toddler Awaab Ishak who died of respiratory condition

The Burnley MP is backing a new law to crack down on damp and mouldy rented homes after helping a family living with “a full wall of black mould”.

Awaab’s Law will force social landlords to fix mould within strict time limits, to be decided later this year. The amendment to the Social Housing Regulation Bill is in memory of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould at his home in Rochdale.

The Conservative MP for Burnley says he supports the “tougher” new legislation that will give new powers to the Housing Ombudsman to hold rogue landlords to account.

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MP Antony Higginbotham said: "I was truly shocked and horrified to learn about the circumstances leading to the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak. And am fully supportive of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, which will require landlords to fix reported health hazards within specified timeframes.

Burnley MP Antony HigginbothamBurnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

“Every single person in Burnley and Padiham deserves to live in a home that is free from mould.

"The vast majority of landlords do the right thing and ensure the homes they are responsible for are safe and free of mould. But for that small minority who do not, it’s clear we need legislation in place which gives a hard limit on how long tenants should have to wait before a mould issue is dealt with.”

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The MP said it is “a disappointing reality” that Burnley families living with mould must seek his help following their landlord's failure to resolve the issue, adding that “just one case is one too many.”

Among them was a family with “a full wall of black mould”.

Black mould in a rented home in Burnley.Black mould in a rented home in Burnley.
Black mould in a rented home in Burnley.

"Sadly, in many cases, the resident had come to me having had no action for years beforehand.

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"It is totally unacceptable, and residents should not have to live within those conditions, nor should it take an intervention from me as the Member of Parliament to fix the issue.”

The new rules will form part of the tenancy agreement, allowing tenants to legally hold landlords to account if they fail to provide a decent home. Mr Higginbotham also aims to give Burnley Council the tools and funding to inspect rogue landlords and enforce the new rules.

The Government has blocked funding to build news homes to social landlord Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, which managed the property where two-year-old Awaab lived. His parents alerted the housing provider to the mould problem for several months before his death, but it failed to act.

Wallpaper has peeled off the wall in a rented home in Burnley due to black mould.Wallpaper has peeled off the wall in a rented home in Burnley due to black mould.
Wallpaper has peeled off the wall in a rented home in Burnley due to black mould.
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Mr Higginbotham said he agreed with the Government's measure, saying "it’s sensible that any housing provider maintains their current stock to a decent level before expanding.

"I don’t think that means we withhold funding for existing maintenance schemes, as that could have the opposite effect, but I think it should limit what further expansion can take place.”

The Government has also announced £14m. in funding for enforcement teams to inspect housing associations and private landlords. The MP said the funds do not cover Burnley, but the borough council has a Housing Enforcement Team that carries out inspections under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Under Awaab’s Law, social housing bosses must also have a qualification equivalent to a Level 4 or 5 certificate or diploma in housing from a provider regulated by exams watchdog Ofqual, or a foundation degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing.