New legislation proposed by Housing Secretary Michael Gove setting deadlines for mold control and other repairs only applies to England and Wales, while landlords in Scotland have received non-statutory guidance that is unenforceable.
The Scottish Housing Inspectorate has sent landlords a letter with advice on how to solve the problem, saying they “should consider the systems in place to ensure their tenants’ homes are not affected by mold and damp and that they have appropriate ones in place.” , proactive systems in place to timely and effectively detect and treat all reported instances of mold and moisture”.
In November, a coroner concluded that two-year-old Awaab Ishak had died as a result of damp and mold at his home, managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH).
And last month, Mr Gove announced amendments to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill that would enshrine the need for housing associations to meet set timeframes for inspecting for dampness and mold and making urgent repairs. Exact timeframes would be determined following consultations later this year.
Other changes include providing tenants with clear information about their rights. After extensive campaigning by Grenfell United, the bill will also require housing managers to have professional qualifications for their role, while social landlords will be subject to inspections.
The rules become part of the lease, so tenants can legally hold landlords accountable if they don’t provide a decent home. Mr Gove said landlords who “continue to drag their feet over dangerous damp and mold will face the full force of the law”.
The Scottish Tenants Association says non-statutory guidelines are not enough in Scotland and is calling for a strong Awaab law in Scotland that will be “rigorously enforced”.
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They said: “Such legislation must not blame the lifestyle of tenants in Scotland but instead focus on the serious problems of damp and mold which need to be addressed with sufficient financial resources made available by the Scottish Government and all landlords.
“Current thinking in Scotland to only use voluntary guidelines is an exit by landlords in Scotland from devoting no real resources to damp and mold removal and will inevitably focus on blaming damp and mold on tenants’ lifestyles .”
It comes three months after Scotland’s largest publicly funded housing association was fined for failing to trace the full extent of moisture and mold problems in its rental properties, prompting serious health concerns.
The controversy surfaced days after toddler Awaab Ishak died of a respiratory illness caused by exposure to mold at his social rented home.
Awaab Ishak’s father repeatedly raised the issue with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) but nothing was done.
The case sparked a national debate over social housing standards with echoes of the Grenfell disaster, which was preceded by a social tenant not listening properly to tenants’ complaints.
In November, the Wheatley Group, which owns or manages houses in 19 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, admitted it does not put “specific marking” on its properties to tell if they have moisture and mold problems.
It was responding to a freedom of information request from concerned tenants who asked Wheatley, the fourth largest housing group in the UK, how many of its total council housing have had moisture and mold problems over the past two years.
In response, the Scottish Housing Inspectorate published guidance on tackling damp and mould.
And leading housing organizations have joined forces to run a program of events and guidance to help frontline workers be proactive about damp or mold in public housing.
The Scottish Housing Regulator shared Scotland-specific best practice guidance with the sector following an online masterclass due to take place last month.
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The regulator said the non-statutory guidance recognizes that moisture and mold issues are “often multi-faceted and solutions can include both addressing problems with the property and helping tenants with any issues affecting the living experience in that home.” could affect. especially with rising energy and other living costs”.
A Putting Safety First circular, compiled by the regulator in conjunction with housing associations and the Chartered Institute of Housing and viewed by the Herald, tells landlords: “The fundamental role of social landlords is to provide tenants with safe housing in which to live. This includes effectively and quickly solving problems in homes that pose a threat to health and well-being, including dampness and/or mould. If moisture and mold are left untreated for a long period of time, health problems can be serious or, in extreme cases, fatal.
Responding to dampness and mold primarily or initially as a lifestyle issue is inappropriate and ineffective.
“This approach leaves a negative impression on tenants, who may feel blamed and stigmatized and may be less inclined to report further instances of the problem, leading to more areas of ‘silence’ and long-term property deterioration.
“The best way for landlords to avoid problems with the development of damp and mold that could affect the well-being of tenants is to take a proactive approach to identifying any issues across their portfolio.”
Analysis by the Fraser of Allander Institute highlighted damp and overcrowded housing as a factor in the dramatic delay in improving living standards in Scotland.
Previous surveys of the state of housing in Scotland had shown a fall in the number of properties reporting problems with wet conditions over the past decade, but suggested that low-income households were still hardest hit.
Sean Clerkin, Campaigns Coordinator at the STO added: “The voice of renters in Scotland needs to be heard and not crowded out by cost-conscious landlords. We need Awaab’s law in Scotland.
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The Housing Inspectorate said it was for the Scottish Government to comment on possible legislation.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Social landlords are already required to meet the Scottish Quality Standard for Housing, which requires properties to be free from moisture, have adequate ventilation and be adequately insulated, and they need to ensure that any application for repairs is carried out in one go will be on time. Compliance is monitored by the Scottish Housing Regulator.
“The regulator is currently working with social housing providers to identify best practices in dealing with damp and mold and is expected to issue updated guidance shortly. If landlords fail to do this, tenants can escalate complaints to the Scottish Public Sector Ombudsman.”
https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/23363765.concern-awaabs-law-stop-bad-housing-wont-apply-scotland/?ref=rss Bear in mind that the Awaab Act to end poor housing will not apply in Scotland