Thousands of complaints about damp and mould received in three years

Awaab Ishak died after prolonged mould exposure.

Thousands of complaints about leaks, damp and mould have been made about social housing across England in the past three years, new figures reveal.

The health impacts of poor-quality social housing have been in the spotlight after a coroner ruled two year-old Awaab Ishak died after prolonged exposure to mould in his flat, which was maintained by housing association Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH)

The Housing Ombudsman investigates complaints made about social housing providers, such as housing associations, local authorities and housing co-operatives.

Awaab Ishak's family have fought for justice after the two-year-old's death.

A freedom of information request by Radar revealed 5,838 complaints about leaks, damp and mould were made to the ombudsman in the three years to March 2022.

Of these, 3,915 were about properties managed by housing associations, and 1,861 were for housing provided by or on behalf of local authorities.

Alex Diner, a senior researcher on housing at the New Economics Foundation, called it a “national disgrace” that millions of families across England are living in “dangerous” homes.“

'The shocking death of Awaab Ishak shows the Government must accept responsibility and do much more to drive up standards in the social housing sector, to empower tenants and to improve the rotten culture that still exists in those failing councils and housing associations,” he said.

Mould in Awaab Ishak's flat in Rochdale.

The number of complaints has risen more than 17-fold in recent years – there were 3,741 complaints about leaks, damp and mould in 2021/22, while there were just 212 in 2019/20, alongside a further 400 complaints about ‘leaks and floods’ that year.

The Ombudsman said this may be due to improved recording practices and greater media attention on the issue in the past year.

In response to the findings, the National Housing Federation said work “has already begun to improve the quality any homes and services that have fallen short”.

It said every housing association property will be checked for issues such as damp and mould and any problems fixed, following recommendations in a review it commissioned along with the Chartered Institute of Housing.

The Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, said councils “fully support” efforts to improve standards in the rental sector.

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