Report finds 'notable' mould and damp in around 160,000 social homes

Two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from a prolonged exposure to mould.

Up to 160,000 social homes in England are impacted by “notable” mould and damp, with 8,000 posing a serious risk to health, according to new figures by the government's Regulator of Social Housing (RSH).The report follows the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in a mould-infested Rochdale flat.

The Regulator has told the sector to “act now”, after some landlords responded to its request with poor evidence, while others had no data on mould and damp at all.

Fiona MacGregor, Chief Executive of RSH, said: "Tenants deserve quality services and homes that are safe and of a decent standard. Where there are issues, landlords need to act now to put things right, before we start our active consumer regulation including inspections of providers.

"We expect all providers to continue to look at how they can improve the way they identify and address damp and mould."

The Regulator says the picture is incomplete but it estimates 3-4% of social homes have notable mould and damp, 1-2% have serious damp and mould problems, and 0.2% of have the most serious issues.

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In a separate report, the Housing Ombudsman for England has found only 35% of social landlords have a policy for dealing with mould and damp. Richard Blakeway said: “we are continually finding…landlords have not responded to this issue with sufficient urgency.”

The Ombudsman recorded a 77% increase (3,530) in the number of enquiries and complaints about damp, mould and leaks between 2020-21 and 2021-22. It’s increased again this year with 3,969 enquiries and complaints, with two months still to go.

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The Ombudsman also found some landlords are still blaming tenants, and have removed words such as "lifestyle" from their policies but replaced them with euphemisms such as "internal environmental factors".

The Housing Ombudsman’s report is an update to its Spotlight inquiry on mould and damp carried out last year following an ITV News investigation that found appalling conditions in homes across England. His statement a year on shows there’s lots of work still to do:

"I welcome the work that many landlords are doing to strengthen their approach following the coroner's report. Our Spotlight report and this evaluation are invaluable tools to support that.

"Landlords need to have a sustained focus on culture and behaviours to ensure issues are not dismissed. The human impact and consequence of the creeping normalisation of poor culture was highlighted by the death of Awaab Ishak.

"It is disappointing when we conducted over review how few landlords had acted to implement a dedicated damp and mould policy, despite there being a clear and driving need to have a bespoke response for these reports given the shortcoming identified in our casework."