Opinion

Awaab's Law: Why the government is forcing failing landlords to fix social housing more quickly

New measures under Awaab's Law and the Social Housing Regulation Act are intended to drive up social housing standards. Too many tenants have been let down, writes social housing minister Baroness Jane Scott

Rochdale toddler Awaab Ishak died due to damp and mould in his social housing flat

The shocking details behind Awaab Ishak's tragic death have been described as a "wake up call" for the social housing sector. Image: Family handout

Everyone deserves to live in a safe, warm and decent home.    
   
Readers of the Big Issue will remember the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak after exposure to mould in his Rochdale home.  

It is a sad reminder of some of the conditions that people are living in up and down the country and the failure of a small minority of social landlords who have been found letting down their tenants time and again.

We took immediate action following Awaab’s death. We have introduced a law in his name, as part of the Social Housing Regulation Act, which passed last summer. Awaab’s Law will require social landlords to assess and fix reported health hazards such as dangerous damp and mould within strict time limits.  

This law was needed because too many times tenants have told me they have raised complaints again and again to their landlord, but nothing is done. That is simply unacceptable.  

Awaab’s Law is just one of the many steps we’re taking to improve conditions for social housing tenants.  Today we are marking a new significant milestone by giving the Social Housing Regulator more tools to hold landlords to account and clamp down on bad practice. 

The regulator will call out bad practice through its new inspection regime. If landlords are unwilling or unable to put things right then the regulator has new tools such as the ability to issue unlimited fines, the right to enter properties at just 48 hours’ notice and to arrange for emergency repairs to be made in the most severe cases. 

We are setting the bar higher so tenants get the service they deserve, with landlords being required to keep a record on the condition of every home, based on physical stock checks of properties so they can understand problems and fix them. We are also giving tenants opportunities to influence and scrutinise their landlord’s services while providing tenants with information about their rights and how to make complaints

This is part of the biggest government reforms to affect social housing in a decade, which will be crucial in addressing systemic issues relating to safety, quality and tenant-landlord relationships that were identified after the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017

This is about driving up standards so that landlord’s provide quality homes and services and now tenants have the tools to hold failing landlords to account.   

While I know there a number of landlords providing good homes and services, too many continue to fall short. The regulator and the Housing Ombudsman all too often report that residents are being routinely ignored by their landlords.   

That’s why we are taking strong action today to improve the quality of social housing and the services landlords provide, while giving tenants the power to demand change.  

Baroness Jane Scott is the government minister for social housing.

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