12 Dec 2022
In the past fortnight I have been contacted by numerous landlords asking what they need to do in order to ensure they are able to respond adequately to the Regulator of Social Housing’s letters of the 22 November 2022 in respect of damp and mould in tenants’ homes, as well as how they can achieve legal compliance going forward.
The letter from the Regulator followed Michael Gove’s letters to all local authority chief executives and council leaders, and to all providers of social housing on 19 November. The letter seeks assurance from the sector following the tragic case of Awaab Ishak, who died of a respiratory condition caused by mould in his home. For local authorities he has directed them under Section 3(3) of the Housing Act 2004 in that carrying out their duties to review housing conditions in the area, in respect of private rented properties, they must:
For all providers of social housing, he signaled the information that was going to be required by the Regulator as well as reminding landlords that they should self-refer to the Regulator should they become aware through those assessments, or by other means, that they may be in breach of the relevant regulatory standards.
The Regulator wrote to CEOs of large RPs on 22 November asking for the following information:
The Regulator’s letter to small RPs reminded them that damp and mould are potential hazards under the HHSRS and that failure to address them could lead to failure of the Decent Homes Standard and the Home Standard. Although not required to formally report, small RPs need to have a comprehensive understanding of potential damp and mould issues and be taking action to remedy them.
Responses from large RPs have to be supported with recent data and if data is not available, this has to be noted. The deadline for these submissions is 19 December, a tight timescale for some with huge quantities of stock to assess but this urgency underlines the seriousness of the position.
So, what should RPs be doing to be able to give assurance to the Regulator that action is being taken and then to ensure future compliance?
I set out my five key actions below:
Although time is short to reply and there is much to be done, it is imperative that the actions are taken as instructed by the Regulator by 19 December. Should you become aware through these assessments, or by other means, that you may be in breach of the regulatory standards then there may be a need to self-refer. Of course, there is an ongoing need for compliance beyond the 19 December and the actions outlined above can form a useful template for ensuring a robust and responsive approach to reports of damp and mould into the new year and beyond.
Donna is a partner and head of housing management and property litigation at Devonshires Solicitors.