Private Landlords Tarred By Social Housing Failings
In the days after the tragic death of 2 year old, Awaab Ishak, due to extensive damp and mould in his parents rented social housing, everyone seems to be trying to deflect their own shortcomings by bad-mouthing private landlords. This triggered a whole range of responses across the various Landlord Associations we work with.
What We Originally Said To Fellow PRS Landlord Associations
"I am hating all the bad press private landlords are getting because a Rotherham Housing Assoc didn't resolve a damp issue that led to the death of a toddler. I don't think I have listened to a news report that has not either said 'the problem is worse in the PRS' or at least implied it. The social housing lobby are really strong and adept at deflecting blame...."
What The Ombudsman Said
What We Wrote To Michael Gove
As an Association of Private Landlords we commend your stance on the tragic and avoidable death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale. We agree that the whole situation, to use your own words, 'beggars belief' and should never be allowed to be repeated.
We would make 2 suggestions, and I have copied several of our local MPs and councillors who I am sure fully understand the situation here in the Portsmouth area:
- The 'Decent Homes Standard' has been an abject failure in the social housing sector and needs a significant change of approach if it is ever to improve poor standards. For a Housing Association to 'buy a few new houses' in order to raise its average EPC to 'C' and thus meet its target without any improvement to its failing stock makes a mockery of the system. Similarly, we see too many cases where Housing Associations fail to 'remember' routine gas safety checks (several local examples were 200+ homes were years late) or where damp is allowed to become a serious issue (Example: Portsmouth mum given £3,000 in compensation after Vivid takes five years to fix damp and mould | The News).
- Everyone deserves a safe and secure home – we can debate affordability of improved standards but surely you must agree that safety and security should be non-negotiable and currently, the Decent Homes Standard fails to achieve that
- You really need to replace the Housing Ombudsman. Having singularly failed to have any noticeable impact in the Social Sector, it is shameful that he uses the example of Awaab Ishak on BBC News today to tar the private sector and argue for the extension of his role to the PRS. I accept that the PRS will never be perfect, but as a place to live, for many it is a safer and more secure place than many social, council or military homes, at least in this area.
I appreciate you are very busy – but do hope you have time to contemplate these 2 points.
iHowz To The Ombudsman
NRLA Comment On Radio 4
Chris Norris, NRLA Policy Director gave a good interview (copied below) in which he said,"If this property had been in the private sector, I suspect this issue would have been dealt with much earlier" and "there is a more definitive process for landlords in the private sector compared to the social sector"
Tony Athill's Comment
"This guy is clearly out of order but there is a problem with mould. It is only going to get worse as tenants and owner occupiers cut back on heating, close windows disable extractor fans and block off air vents in efforts to save energy. Is it not time for a national education campaign?
It is not always simple. I recall a property we looked at in Portsmouth. The Council Officer went in and ordered a professional survey, that said there was rising damp and he could fix it for a price. The Landlord's partner then spotted that a double glazed window had been badly fitted and the rain was running straight into the cavity. "
All of this is exacerbated by a lack of experts to assess mould and damp - too many see damp proofing solutions because that is the service they offer, rather than assess and weigh all of the causes and then recommend a range of remedies; by the lack of education, too few tenants understand the relationship between heating, ventilation and humidity and how best to manage it; and by the poor quality of our housing - much of Portsmouth's housing stock is 70+ years old and unsuited to house by house update - yet we see no action from local authorities to bring terraced streets up to modern standards, whether that be green loans, central project management or provision of retrofit advisors.