Every person deserves to live in a home that is safe.

Ministerial foreword

Every person across this country deserves to live in a home that is safe, warm and dry.

The tragic death of 2-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020, due to mould in his family home, should never happen to another family.

The Coroner’s report into Awaab’s death describes a catalogue of failures, and a housing provider that abdicated its responsibilities to his family and hid behind legal processes.

This guidance is a direct response to the Coroner’s report, and has been developed with a multidisciplinary group of experts in housing and health. Members of the government’s expert Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants were also consulted. It makes sure that social and private sector landlords have a thorough understanding of their legal responsibilities, and of the serious health risks that damp and mould pose.

Landlords must ensure that the accommodation they provide is free from serious hazards, including damp and mould, and that homes are fit for habitation. They must treat cases of damp and mould with the utmost seriousness and act promptly to protect their tenants’ health.

As this guidance also makes clear, tenants should not be blamed for damp and mould. Damp and mould in the home are not the result of ‘lifestyle choices’, and it is the responsibility of landlords to identify and address the underlying causes of the problem, such as structural issues or inadequate ventilation.

The tragic death of Awaab Ishak should never have happened. His family’s complaints about their living conditions were repeatedly ignored – an experience that is familiar to many tenants.

This government is committed to ensuring a decent standard of housing for tenants in the social and private rented sectors. Through the Renters (Reform) Bill and Social Housing Regulation Act, legislative changes will improve housing standards. We will:

  • introduce ‘Awaab’s Law’ to set out new requirements for landlords to address hazards such as damp and mould in social homes. Following a consultation, we’ll bring these into force as soon as Parliamentary time allows
  • provide new powers for the Housing Ombudsman and change the law so that social housing residents can complain directly to the Ombudsman
  • review the Decent Homes Standard and apply it to private rented homes for the first time
  • introduce new professionalisation standards that will require senior housing staff to hold, or work towards, recognised housing management qualifications
  • introduce the new private rented property portal and give all private tenants access to an ombudsman if their landlord fails to resolve legitimate complaints

We urge landlords to read this guidance and adopt the best practices it sets out. This will protect tenants’ health and prevent avoidable tragedies like the death of Awaab Ishak happening to another family.

The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities