Government Guide: How to Address Damp and Mould Risks
The Government of England has released a comprehensive guidance document titled 'Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home'. Published on 7 September 2023, the document provides crucial advice and clarification for landlords and letting agents on their responsibility to ensure safe and habitable conditions for their tenants.
The guidance applies to England, but landlords or agents in Wales will also find it helpful.
In response to the tragic death of 2-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020 due to mould in his family home, the government has developed this guidance with the help of a multidisciplinary group of experts in housing and health. The aim is to ensure that social and private sector landlords thoroughly understand their legal responsibilities and the severe health risks of dampness and mould.
Understanding Damp and Mould
Damp and mould primarily affect the airways and lungs but can also affect the eyes and skin. The tragic death of Awaab Ishak resulted from a severe respiratory condition due to prolonged mould exposure. The guidance also clarifies that tenants should not be blamed for dampness and mould:
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.
Instead, landlords must identify and address the underlying causes of the problem, such as structural issues or inadequate ventilation.
The government will be introducing several legislative changes to improve housing standards:
- The introduction of 'Awaab's Law' with new requirements for landlords to address hazards such as damp and mould in social homes.
- The provision of new powers for the Housing Ombudsman and legislation changes to allow social housing residents to file complaints directly.
- The review of the Decent Homes Standard and its first-time application to privately rented homes.
- The introduction of new professionalisation standards for senior housing staff.
- Introducing a new private rented property portal and access for all private tenants to an ombudsman for unresolved complaints.
Addressing Damp and Mould
The guidance also outlines best practices for landlords when addressing damp and mould:
- Landlords should respond with urgency, prioritising tenant health.
- Landlords should inform tenants about the steps to remove mould and address the underlying issues.
- The guidance advises photographing the location of the mould before removal to assist in identifying the source.
- Landlords should engage professionals for mould removal when appropriate.
- The underlying causes of damp and mould, such as structural issues and inadequate ventilation, should be addressed.
- The home should be inspected six weeks after remedial work to ensure the problem is fixed.
Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), landlords are legally obligated to ensure their property is free from hazards, including damp and mould, and fit for habitation. Local authorities can assess properties for these hazards and take action if they find any serious issues.
Landlords are advised to take preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of damp and mould. This includes regular maintenance of properties, provision of adequate heating and insulation, and educating tenants on the importance of ventilating the property, heating adequately, and dealing with any condensation promptly.
The government urges landlords to adopt the best practices outlined in this guidance to protect their tenants' health and prevent avoidable tragedies. It is hoped that implementing these measures will ensure a decent standard of housing for tenants in the social and private rented sectors.
For more detailed information, landlords and letting agents are encouraged to read the full guidance document on the government's website.
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