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What Could Awaab’s Law Mean For Social Housing?

The government has launched a consultation seeking views on the implementation of Awaab’s law, named for Awaab Ishak, a two-year-old who died in December 2020. An inquest found that Awaab died from a severe respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home. His parents had complained to their social housing landlord, who failed to take action for three years. Subsequent campaigning led the government to pass Awaab’s law in July 2023, which requires the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to set out new legal duties for social landlords to address hazards, such as damp and mould in social homes, within a fixed time period.

Awaab’s law effectively implies into social housing tenancy agreements a term that requires landlords to comply with new requirements, which are to be set out in regulations. This means all registered providers of social housing will have to meet these requirements, and if they do not, residents will be able to take legal action through the courts for a breach of contract. The court can order the landlord to carry out repairs, pay compensation and pay the tenant’s legal costs. These requirements are the subject of the government consultation.

Under the government proposals, social landlords must investigate hazards and carry out repairs when a hazard poses a significant risk to the health or safety of the resident of the dwelling. Landlords must consider all 29 of the health and safety hazards set out by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This includes hazards such as those arising from damp and mould, cold, asbestos, lead, crowding, electrical hazards, and falls. The proposals have exceeded the initial expectations of campaigners in this respect, broadening the scope of hazards so that Awaab’s law will be applicable to a variety of situations.

A landlord must investigate a potential hazard, either in person or remote, within 14 days of notification to ascertain if there is a hazard. Within this time, the landlord must provide a written summary of findings to the resident, detailing any hazard identified and (if applicable) next steps, including an anticipated timeline for repair and a schedule of works. If a hazard poses a significant risk to the health or safety of the resident, the landlord must begin repair works within 7 days of the written summary being issued and satisfactorily complete repair works within a reasonable time period. There is no definition of a reasonable time period in the proposals as this will vary depending on the circumstances. Neither is there a fixed definition of significant risk; landlords will need to take into account the individual circumstances of residents when considering the risks posed by hazards and should not make decisions based solely on the HHSRS category levels. The landlord must action emergency repairs as soon as practicable and, in any event, within 24 hours. Whist the proposals do not prescribe emergency repairs, examples are provided, including gas leaks, broken boilers and lack of water supply.

If the property cannot be made safe within the specified timescales for Awaab’s Law, the landlord must offer to arrange for the residents to stay in suitable alternative accommodation until it is safe to return. The landlord will be expected to keep clear records of all attempts to comply with the proposals, including records of all correspondence with residents and any contractors.

The proposals are an improvement on the current position, in particular by providing timescales in which social landlords must investigate and begin works. There will likely continue to be areas of dispute, especially regarding what is a reasonable period in which to complete works and whether hazards pose a significant risk to tenants.

This consultation opened on 9 January 2024 and will last for 8 weeks ending 5 March 2024.

If you need help with housing disrepair and would like to talk to our housing law specialists, call us on 0330 822 3451 or request a callback.

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