A watchdog has found ‘significant failings’ in the management of the housing association which owned the Rochdale estate where two-year-old Awaab Ishak died.
The social housing regulator (RSH) found that Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) showed a lack of urgency in tackling damp and mold in its properties, even after Awaab’s death in December 2020 a respiratory condition caused by mold in the flat where he lived with his parents in Greater Manchester.
A coroner found in november that “no action to address and prevent the mold has been taken”, and said the case should be “a watershed moment” for the housing industry.
The latest breaches reported by the RSH go beyond those in the coroner’s verdict, and “as a result, RBH breached the regulator’s consumer and governance standards.”
RSH will now take action to ensure that the social housing association “addresses these shortcomings and puts the situation right for its tenants”, and wants all social landlords to take its findings into account.
According to the regulator, RBH waited nearly two years after Awaab’s death to check for dampness and mold in other homes on the estate. When they finally checked, they found hundreds of tenants living with the problem.
Larger failings within the company also meant that RBH provided the regulator with inadequate information about dampness and mold shortly after Awaab’s death, undermining their credibility and exposing significant failings in the way which it treats moisture and mould.
The housing association also made incorrect assumptions about the cause of dampness and mold in Awaab’s home and failed to act to address the issues.
It also failed to treat Awaab’s family with fairness and respect, and the regulator said it was not satisfied that RBH treated other tenants fairly.
‘This is unacceptable’
Fiona MacGregor, Managing Director of RSH, said: “Our investigation reveals significant failings in how RBH manages dampness and mold in its homes, which are harming tenants.
“The tragic death of Awaab Ishak should have led to action to establish broader risks, but RBH did not respond quickly or effectively.
“This is unacceptable. RBH must address the issues we have found and we will take further action if they do not.
“Our judgment sends a clear message to social landlords that they must address dampness and mold as the serious risks that they are, treat tenants with respect and take their concerns seriously.”
RBH said its new damp and mold task force has dramatically accelerated repair work, new translation tools are improving communication with tenants and a £1.2million program is underway to improve ventilation.
“We must honor the memory of Awaab”
A spokesperson said: “Today’s announcement from the regulator recognizes this failure and the mistakes we made.
“We accept this judgment and are already working closely with the regulator to address their concerns and meet their expectations.”
Housing Secretary Michael Gove, who was strongly critical of the failings of social landlordswelcomed the report, stating that “RBH failed – and that means Awaab Ishak lost his life needlessly and tragically. Today’s judgment by the regulator reflects this.
‘I have seen and heard first hand the problems tenants continue to face in Rochdale. But it is not just a problem in Rochdale – it is clear from today’s English Housing Survey’ today that there are very serious problems with the quality of houses in this country.
“We need to honor Awaab’s memory, so I am considering new measures – including legislation – that will go further to provide urgent action when people complain of damp and mold and ensure that tenants’ rights are respected.”