We now have the Coroner’s Findings and Conclusion for the inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak, and also the Regulation 28 Report for the purpose of preventing future deaths. (My previous post on the death of Awaab Ishak is here. It was written quickly and angrily, and while I wholly stand by the content, the writing makes me wince.)
The Reg 28 report is made by the Coroner to Michael Gove as Secretary of State to raise matters that emerged during the inquest and which may prevent future deaths. A response is required within 56 days. The matters are:
1. The 2006 document, “A Decent Home: Definition and Guidance for Implementation” does not give any consideration to the issue of damp and mould. Nor does it provide any guidance as to the need for a property to be adequately ventilated.
2 The HHSRS data sheet relating to damp and mould, is used to calculate risks of the incident and the spread of harm is not reflective of the current known risks of damp and mould and harm to health.
3. There was no evidence that up to date relevant health information pertaining to the risks of damp and mould was easily accessible to the housing sector.
4. The evidence highlighted a “policy” amongst the housing associations, in cases where a disrepair claim has been brought of waiting for agreement from the claimant (or their legal representative) before rectifying any recognised disrepair.
5. The private landlord sector does not have access to the Housing Ombudsman for their complaints to be investigated independently.
I considered matter 4 – the ‘policy’ – in detail in my previous post. It has no basis in law or in the Housing Conditions Pre-Action Protocol. I’m not convinced that is a matter for Gove, or indeed for any legislative response. It just needs landlords (and some claimant solicitors) to acknowledge the stupidity of this, stop messing about, act according to the law and follow the pre-action protocol.
If they don’t, then, adopting a Gove tactic, I would be prepared to name and shame on this site, landlords and claimant firms alike. Both are letting down the tenants.
1 to 3 are good points indeed.
On 1. though, Decent Homes was never meant to be a complete property standard (and there is no more Decent Homes scheme funding). It now appears that DLUHC is contemplating Decent Homes as an enforceable standard for the private sector in the forthcoming Renters Reform Bill. If so, then Decent Homes needs to be a complete standard, certainly including ventilation, condensation and mould. And of course it should also apply to the social housing sector. I’m not sure that the Coroner quite grasped the status of A Decent Home. (Everyone needs a housing lawyer with them at all times.)
5 is likely to be answered by pointing to the Renters Reform white paper and allegedly forthcoming Bill.
Meanwhile the CEO of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing is refusing to resign and not answering any questions. The problems are certainly more widespread and deep rooted than just at RBH, and go further than the CEO’s leadership, such that a sacrificial scalp might be satisfying but hardly an answer. However, Mr Swarbrick will surely have to realise – as news of yet more mould ridden RBH flats and ignored complaints emerges – that clinging on is not going to work. But the moment for a dignified resignation has long passed, that ship has sailed over the horizon. He will end up going, without any last shred of dignity left.
[Update Saturday 19 Nov – the Board that backed him on Thursday has now sacked him on Saturday. Prophecy fulfilled.]
Also meanwhile RBH are reportedly to start works on other flats
RBH said it was spending over £1.2m installing positive input ventilation units in each flat “to improve air quality, circulation and to reduce the possibility of condensation and mould” and new extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
That work is due to begin in December.
So, it has taken them whole two years and undergoing the inquest to decide to do this, and they haven’t even started.