Section 21 notice: Burnley families made homeless after complaining about black mould to their landlord

Many Burnley families must choose between homelessness or living with “horrendous” black mould, a councillor reveals.
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The Lib Dem politician is helping three families forced out of their homes by their landlord in the past month via Section 21 notices after complaining about damp and mould.

Coun. Gordon Birtwistle, who represents the Coalclough with Deerplay ward, claims many tenants are “trapped” in old, damp homes as they are “frightened” of being evicted for voicing concerns about the impact of mould on their children’s health.

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He is now campaigning for the Government to abolish the “appalling” Section 21 notices.

Coun. Gordon Birtwistle is helping a Burnley household living with black mould in their rented home.Coun. Gordon Birtwistle is helping a Burnley household living with black mould in their rented home.
Coun. Gordon Birtwistle is helping a Burnley household living with black mould in their rented home.

Speaking about the issue of mouldy homes, Coun. Birtwistle said: “It’s never been as bad as it is now. I hear about it from two or three families a week.

“It’s horrendous.

"I lived in a two-up, two-down slum in 1948, and thought things would have improved 80 years later, but they haven’t for many people.”

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Numerous families can only afford to live in old terraces that “are not fit for habitation” as they are subject to mould and require a damp course, he added.

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“It’s terrible in Burnley. [Some landlords] care more about money in the bank than the welfare of people, which I think is wrong.”

The politician is helping one family whose 15-year-old had an asthma attack in bed. He is concerned about the impact of black mould on the property’s ceiling on the child’s health and says their mum is struggling with the mental toll of their living conditions.

"The young lady is very depressed. She’s a single parent with two young children. She cleans every day but thinks her house is dirty.

“They can’t leave because there is nowhere for them to go. They pay £600 a month to stay there.”

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With the landlord failing to fix the problem, Coun. Birtwistle reported it to the council, who checked the house and confirmed it was “in a bad way”.

Councils can use “limited” powers to make repairs on the tenant's behalf and charge the housing provider. But many landlords use section 21 notices to evict families and avoid paying for work before the authorities become involved.

“It’s so ridiculously easy [to issue a Section 21 notice]. It gives the tenant 60 days to leave. That’s a shock in itself.

"Many landlords wouldn’t bat an eyelid if it makes families homeless. What do we do with the poor tenant now living on the street?

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"I think it’s appalling when they have only complained about damp affecting their children’s health. Tenants have no chance if they complain.”

Many families are “frightened” to ask their housing provider for repairs to their home and will put up with mould despite its “horrible” impact on their lives.

It is why, Coun. Birtwistle added: "The Government needs to scrap Section 21 notices.

“You can live in a house riddled with damp and at least half a roof on, and think, ‘At least I’m not on the streets with a suitcase and three children, or living in just a bedroom for the whole family and sharing one toilet with other rooms. That’s the alternative.

“Families are trapped.”

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For help addressing mould in the home, contact the council’s housing department at

For support and advice about section 21 notices, visit housing charity Shelter at

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