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An end to ‘a reasonable period’? Awaab’s Law


As you will doubtless recall, the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 introduced a new section 10A Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, implying a term into all social tenancies that the landlord will comply with all ‘prescribed requirements’  on responding to relevant defects to be specified in regulations – the framework for ‘Awaab’s Law’. A breach of section 10A would be actionable by the tenant in the County Court – quite possibly together with section 9A/10 and section 11.

Now DLUHC have published a consultation on the contents of the proposed regulations, and they make very interesting reading in terms of the proposals to be consultation upon.

The headlines are:

Relevant defects – now it was obvious, given the context, that damp and mould would be in there, but DLUHC have taken a broader and – it has to be said – more coherent approach. The proposal is that all 29 (current) HHSRS hazards would be relevant.

We propose defining hazards in scope of Awaab’s Law as those that pose a significant risk to the health or safety of the actual resident of the dwelling. This means that a hazard does not have to be at category 1 level in order to be in scope of Awaab’s Law. This is because there may be instances where a particular resident is at a greater risk from hazardous conditions, for example a resident with asthma may be at greater risk from a home affected by damp and mould. An HHSRS assessment does not take the actual resident into account when establishing if a hazard is at category 1 level. Instead, it assesses whether the risk arising from the hazard is greater for a particular age group than any other age group in the population.

To determine whether a hazard poses a significant risk and is therefore in scope of Awaab’s Law, our recommendation is that landlords use their judgement and the existing processes they have in place for triaging repairs. Landlords should also utilise a range of available information to determine whether there is a risk to residents, including HHSRS guidance, information about residents’ vulnerability or age, and other available guidance including the consolidated guidance from DHSC and DLUHC on health risks in housing (Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home). If a landlord receives evidence from third parties – for example from registered healthcare providers, social workers, or schools – they should also factor this into their assessment.

Now, I can imagine a couple of issues with this – for example on overcrowding as a hazard – which we’ll come back to below. But the principle is sound. If there is a hazard that presents a significant (not necessarily serious/category 1)  risk to occupants, then it should qualify. Leaving it to landlords to assess what is a significant risk will likely lead to disputed claims, but hopefully settle down after the first tranche of cases.

Then to timescales – and this is the important part, given that any such defects would currently be actionable under s.9A/10 but after ‘a reasonable time’ for works to have been done.

Landlords would have 14 days (calendar, not working) to investigate from being on notice of the defect.

The Awaab’s Law campaign recommended that social landlords be required to investigate the causes of damp and mould within 14 calendar days of a complaint being made. We have tested this with stakeholders (including residents and social landlords) and consider the 14-day time scale appropriate. As noted above, we propose extending the scope of Awaab’s Law to include all hazards as defined by the HHSRS).

As the consultation correctly points out, being on notice is not simply dependent on a complaint by the tenant.

Social landlords must be aware of the hazard in order for these timescales to apply. We propose that the registered provider can be made aware of a hazard by any traditional means (for example by email, phone call, letters or other means that landlords offer for residents to raise service requests), as well as becoming aware of the hazard through their own scheduled surveys or investigations.

This is indeed the current legal position, and I would add that where the defect is to common parts or parts retained by the landlord (eg the roof of a block of flats), the position in law is that they are on notice immediately that the defect arises, regardless of any tenant complaints – a point I shall make to DLUHC. The consultation also adds, for clarity, “It will not be necessary for residents to take a complaint through a landlord’s formal complaints procedure in order to trigger the timescales.” Quite right…

After the inspection (in that 14 day window), the lanlord will have two days to do a report and provide it to the tenant.

The written summary must specify, at minimum:

  • How and when the investigation was conducted, and the job title of the individual who conducted the investigation.
  • Any following investigations that are required, and if so when they will take place
  • If a hazard was found and if so what
  • Whether the hazard is likely to pose a significant risk to residents’ health or safety
  • If it does pose a risk:
    • [If applicable] what temporary repairs are needed to make the property safe until the problem can be permanently rectified
    • what the registered provider will do to permanently rectify the problem and the likely timescales for this
  • How to contact the registered provider with any queries

If a “significant and imminent risk of harm to the health or safety of an individual” is identified, an emergency timescale will apply – see below. Expect argument over whether a significant and imminent risk of harm is present (as this is to be identified initially by the landlord). There is no need to wait for a written summary to be done before taking action in ’emergency’ cases.

If the emergency timetable is not engaged, works should begin within 7 days.

We propose that if the investigation (as set out in proposals 1 and 2) finds a hazard that poses significant risk to the health or safety of the resident, the registered providers must begin work to repair the hazard within 7 days of the written summary being issued.

Beginning works would mean:

We consider that ‘beginning’ repair works would entail a worker being on site physically starting to repair and rectify a hazard. It will be irrelevant whether works are carried out by in-house workers, external contractors, or a combination.

So, the timescale for beginning works to remedy a hazard (temporarily or permanently) is – at most 23 days from being on notice.

But on a timescale for completing works, things get a little more messy.

We propose that registered providers should be required to complete repairs within a reasonable period – meaning repairs should not be unreasonably delayed and evidence should be provided where delays to repairs are necessary. Planned programmes of works in the future cannot substitute work needed to address hazards in social homes, which must be prioritised.

Timescales for the completion of works should reflect the nature of the problem, for example repairing space and water heating systems must be treated more urgently during colder weather and can be challenged by the tenant.

Timescales for completing repairs should be proportionate to the scale of the repair and consider the needs of occupants. For example, tighter timescales may be required for elderly or vulnerable individuals.

Ah, ‘reasonable period’ my old friend. So you’ll not be leaving us after all.

There are some useful observations in this – eg that a ‘reasonable period’ does not mean putting everything off until the planned works programme next year or the year after – and that urgency also depends on the tenant’s needs, not a fixed timescale. It is also noted that while temporary repair or remediation may be needed in advance of full rectification (eg cleaning off mould immediately, then fuller works to address defects that give rise to the mould) the fuller works need to be planned and scheduled – a patch repair then walking away is not enough. It will be interesting to see whether and how these suggestions will be embodied in the regulations themselves.

But the arguments over what amounts to a reasonable period will continue.

On emergency works:

There will be circumstances where a resident reports a hazard in their home that warrants an emergency repair. Hazards that pose significant and imminent danger to residents will require faster action and should be treated as an emergency by the landlord. For example:

gas leaks
broken boilers
lack of water supply
electrical hazards such as exposed wiring
significant leaks
broken external doors or windows that present a risk to home security
prevalent damp and mould that is impacting a resident’s ability to breathe

The proposal is for action on emergency repairs within 24 hours – from inspection (which does not necessarily mean attendance at the property – photos from the tenant could be enough, for example).

If a property cannot be made safe within the required timeframe, then temporary accommodation or a decant should be offered.

As noted, we recognise that there may be limited circumstances where landlords are unable to begin or complete repair works within set timeframes. In such circumstances the registered provider is expected to address the hazard and make sure the property is safe for the resident to remain in, using temporary measures where necessary. For example, if a severe electrical hazard was found and a qualified electrician was not available until the next day resulting in electricity in the property being switched off, the landlord should offer for residents to stay in alternative accommodation for the night until the qualified electrician can attend. If a window is broken in colder months and a replacement window will not be available for several weeks, the landlord should install temporary insulation measures within 7 days, and if for any reason they are unable to, they should offer the residents to stay in alternative accommodation until the issue can be fixed.

We propose that if for any reason the registered provider is unable to make the property safe with repair works or temporary measures, they must offer for the resident to be temporarily decanted at the landlord’s expense before it can be addressed. Engagement with the sector has informed our understanding that this proposal is in line with existing repair and decant policies across providers. Suitable alternative accommodation could include vacant social housing stock or hotels.

Then record keeping (and prospective defences to a section 10A claim?)

Access – the landlord is to make at least three attempts to contact the tenant to arrange access at an agreed time. They are then to make three attempt to access at the agreed times.

  • landlords must make at least 3 attempts to contact the resident (or appointed representative) and arrange a suitable time to access the property
  • landlords must work with residents to arrange a suitable time to visit the property. Landlords should offer timeslots for residents to choose from and should take into consideration the residents’ needs (for example their working pattern) when offering timeslots to attend to the property
  • if the registered provider is unable to access the property within the agreed timeslot, they should leave the resident a notice stating that an attempt was made and providing contact details. The registered provider should contact the resident and offer an alternative slot
  • landlords will not be expected to make more than 3 attempts to access the property within agreed timeslots. They will be expected to keep evidence that they have made best efforts to work with the resident to identify a timeslot and the resident has either not responded or has refused access within that slot
  • throughout this process, we will require landlords to keep a record of all correspondence made with residents, noting the date, time and actions attempted

Shortage of labour or materials causing timescale problems:

In these circumstances, landlords must keep residents updated on any delays and keep a record of that correspondence. Landlords should also keep a record of their attempts to source workers and/or materials in case they are challenged for failing to meet timescales.

In these circumstances, landlords must put in place measures to ensure that the property is safe, and if they are unable to do so within the Awaab’s Law timescales, their responsibilities under proposal 6 will apply. This means that if a landlord cannot begin repair works to a hazard that poses a significant risk to the health or safety of the resident within 7 days, and they are also unable to put in place temporary measures to make the property safe within 7 days, the landlord must offer to arrange for the resident(s) to stay in suitable alternative accommodation until it is safe to return.

These are the main proposals. On the whole, this sounds good. There will inevitably be some points of particular dispute (significant risk, reasonable time – of course – and whether works are sufficient to remedy in the short and longer term to remedy the defects.) But clear timescales for responding to notice of issues (where notice is required), and for at least beginning works are immensely helpful.

Having the relevant defects cover the whole HHSRS hazard list is logically a good idea. If the point is to address risks to the health and safety of occupiers, it makes no sense to separate out some risks for special attention. It is also an approach that tallies with the s.9A/10 fitness for human habitation obligation and strengthens it. That said, as mentioned above, one HHSRS hazard – space and crowding – is not really suitable for mandated works within 23 days. Works may well not be the answer. While a decant would remove the immediate hazard, it is not a long term solution. I do wonder whether this hazard needs to be considered separately. (This is also the reason why bringing a fitness for human habitation claim on overcrowding is a tricky proposition where claiming under an implied term of the tenancy agreement for that property.)

This is a consultation, of course, but the direction of travel for the potential regulations is clear.

As an afterthought, I would also suggest that s.10A plus regulations will blow the whole ‘oh you must go through the complaints process as a form of ADR and we will seek to stay any claim until you have done so’ line of argument from some social landlords and their layers out of the water. There’s the timescales. Have you complied? No? That’s a breach, and given the recognised need for urgency in the (prospective) legislation, no basis for further delay for a complaints process, then a complaint about the first complaint not being dealt with (and then a prospective meta-complaint to the Ombudsman about the landlord’s failure to respond adequately to your complaint about your complaint about the landlord not dealing with your original complaint properly.)


Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. Ben Reeve Lewis

    Now. How about that for the PRS as well? Given they are considering a decent homes standard and ombudsman

  2. Katie

    Why is this change only apply to social landlords? Could it be by any chance be a political reason?

    Someone was recently on the legal call in on radio about mould issue explaining that their Council no longer inspects mould complaints and just sends a “blame the victim” leaflet saying the tenant should not be drying clothes indoors without opening the window

    Is this what they mean when they say “Broken Britain”, certainly when I have tenants suffering egregious harassment and forced eviction I can’t get most Local Councils to do anything. I wonder if Councils ever recovered from the changes they made during the austerity period.

    In my experience 90% of mould issues come from either a damp proof course failure or a water defect such as a gutter so the wall has a constant moisture problem.

    I have represented landlords who have completely gutted all the walls of a room affected by mould only to find it return and again it was the guttering which was the fault of the Freehold owner, a Local Council.

    Whilst I agree that tenants should be told about the risk of mould I think any mould should be taken seriously, in USA a whole building can be condemned if mould has got into the air conditioning and other parts of the building. If Landlords (social or private) faced the same sort of sanctions that they do with cladding then maybe we would get somewhere.

    What is the difference a rapid death by fire or a slow death by mould as poor Awaab suffered? Creating defective legislation in their name seems morally reprehensible to me.

    Not including private landlords is just a cop out, I suppose I should not be surprised but I am disappointed, also if these regulations are going to be given teeth, should they not be in the Homes Fitness for Habitation legislation?

    The Government has already stalled (breached manifesto commitment) on getting rid of S21 no fault evictions, if they really want to get the landlord vote they should give them a lower tax route to move their BTL’s to a company with same company ownership (with some conditions) as the property itself. Of course as things stand a tenant is going to be wary about reporting mould because of landlord retaliation and the 6 month delay on S21 is a joke.

    I honestly do not think that mould only affects social housing, one of my clients was moved into a social housing flat that had horrendous mould, her move in was delayed by 4 weeks. The HA did not redecorate the property as some private landlords do, they got a company to come in and apply some mould treatment that kills the mould (it turns black) and gave the tenant a credit at Dulux Refresh for £500 to redecorate.

    The tenant was worried and sent me photos, I told them to get some mould paint for the window frame walls and to do fully decorate the rest of the property using the credit provided. I also suggested they open bathroom window after a shower every day (it already had a decent extractor fan). I spoke to them on another matter last month and they said no mould has returned except for one year when they closed the window ventilation strip in the bedroom , which they spotted early and wiped with bleach, apparently that did the job and it did not get past the PVC window frame.

    So while tenants can improve the situation and not putting heating on is another factor, we need to provide the same legal protection for all parts of the housing market and make sure Local Councils actively follow up complaints, not just send a leaflet that is worded as if it is the tenant’s fault. I am sure that it is this culture of do nothing and see what happens that led to this unfortunate death and the thousands that suffer from mould.

    • Giles Peaker

      Firstly, this dovetails very nicely with Fitness for Human Habitation. Secondly, the reason it is social landlords only is largely to do with the genesis of Awaab’s Law – arising as it did out of the coroner’s report into the death of Awaab Ishak and the (in)actions of RBH. Whether it could or should be extended to the private sector is a good question, but it is worth noting that the Renters (Reform) Bill will make the private sector subject to a revised decent homes standard, which will include absence of hazards.

      By the way, landlords don’t face any particular sanction on cladding.

      • Ben Reeve Lewis

        I have to say, Safer Renting aren’t in favour of the decent homes standard for the PRS. It isn’t that we are against improving standards, far from it but there is already volumes of legislation available to local authorities. The problem is there is no funding for them to enforce and many enforcement officers are deserting the jobs in droves. When the Decent Homes standard was brought in for social housing there was funding. That’s a big difference.

        Secondly when law is fragmented, policing and enforcement gets even more difficult with different bits, different tests, different enforcement standards, different appeal processes, different enforcement duties relating to different council teams spread all over the place, another piece of legislation without funding just makes it worse. Creating new enforcement powers for local authorities who in many cases are already on their last legs, with large numbers lining up to file s114 notices is just nuts.

        If tenants can sue their landlords and take it outside of local authority duties that would be a good and sensible overall principle, not without its own devils in the detail but a better route.

  3. Chris Daniel

    There has long been more than ample regulation and legislation. Issue is it hasn’t been enforced, rather than more being required.

    • Giles Peaker

      This will be enforced by the tenants. And a specified timescale for reacting to defects is a useful step.

  4. Chris Daniel

    Local Authority Improvement Notice should be used, as its a quicker and more effective step, clearing the courts for other work, Any legal action is unlikely to remedy defects as promptly as an Improvement Notice.`

    • Giles Peaker

      I don’t think you’ve thought this through… Applies to social landlords, including local authorities.

  5. Chris Daniel

    Have thought through, I’ve said ( in relation to the question being enforceable on Private sector ) that Local Authority issued Improvement Notices should be used, meaning against PRS ( where appropriate and there is the FTT to arbitrate ).
    As you’ve raised Giles, there is a lacuna of enforcement, against the Enforcers ( ‘Housing Police – Local Authorities ) who on occasion, can be forthright in enforcing standards and legislation against the private sector, which they should, but lapse when it comes to Council rented properties. In other instances, Authorities are trying to distance themselves by ‘Arms-length’ management companies operating Council -owned housing.

    • Giles Peaker

      Local Authorities can’t enforce against themselves. As a matter of law, not willingness.

      The proposed decent homes standard would be LA enforceable. This does, as you say, raise the question of the effectiveness of LA enforcement…

      But the timescales in Awaab’s Law – while not directly inserted into private sector tenancy agreements – will clearly form a model for what amounts to a ‘reasonable time’ for tenant claims against PRS landlords under s.9A/10 or section 11.

  6. Chris Daniel

    I agree Ben, that’s my point. Is that for to long, the plethora of regulation has got to big to enforce, and yes, Govt is cutting back on All services. What I was saying and your agreeing with, I believe, is creating even further legislation isn’t helping. better to fact-find and fix why current legislation isn’t working. Take Housing Disrepair ( particularly on the less serious scale. ) Surely a much quicker for tenant resolution and cheaper, is to have property inspected by LA. and Improvement Notice served. If not remedied, LA have power to have work carried out and charge the landlord. When anything other than the more serious cases get litigated, it adds to the court burden and timescales, takes money out of the court system – legal aid pot.

  7. Ben Reeve Lewis

    I think we go further than considering that it isn’t helping, taking the view that it actually would make things worse. If you read Dr Steve Battersby’s excellent 2018 report on staffing levels in housing enforcement which was itself based on the size of the PRS at the last census in 2012, he found on average 2.2 environmental health officers for every 10,000 properties. An updated report given the growth of the PRS and the denuding of enforcement teams due to austerity cuts may well even double that now.

    So even just being able to get out and inspect is a gargantuan task. When I left my last local authority employer in 2015 there were 3 people in our planning enforcement team and each had a caseload of 900, each of which would have to be investigated, visited, notices served, ignored notices enforced etc


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