A housing association in Rochdale that was responsible for the death of a two-year-old boy is set to be stripped of new government funding. Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) had failed to treat toxic mould in Awaab Ishak’s home, despite countless pleas for help from his family, which ultimately lead to the toddler’s death.
The housing association was expected to receive £1m of funding as part of the Affordable Homes Programme (AFP), however, Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, has announced that they won’t be receiving this money or any new housing contracts until a thorough investigation has taken place.
The Regulator of Social Housing has been tasked with investigating RBH, whose Chief Executive was recently fired, to find out whether it is a responsible landlord or not. Their existing contracts will also remain under close scrutiny to ensure tenants are being looked after properly and housing standards are being adhered to.
The denial of funding and subsequent investigation into RBH is part of a wider government crackdown on lax housing standards in the United Kingdom. Michael Gove has announced that the government is set to take a zero-tolerance approach to failing housing providers.
From now onwards, any providers who breach the Regulator’s consumer standards will be unable to access any new AHP funding until the necessary improvements to their service are made.
The Housing Secretary wrote to all councils and housing associations last weekend making it clear that standards must dramatically improve in relation to damp and mould. He told them that urgent action must take place when a tenant reports these kinds of issues in their home.
In a statement about this crackdown, Michael Gove said:
“RBH failed its tenants so it will not receive a penny of additional taxpayers’ money for new housing until it gets its act together and does right by tenants. Let this be a warning to other housing providers who are ignoring complaints and failing in their obligations to tenants. We will not hesitate to act.
Everyone deserves the right to live in safe, decent homes and this government will always act to protect tenants.”
The Regulator of Social Housing is being given more power to be able to force change in relation to social housing standards. As a result, they have demanded that all housing associations and locality authority landlords provide immediate evidence that are they dealing with damp and mould issues in their homes.
There is also a new bill making its way through Parliament that will give tenants further peace of mind when they make a complaint. The Social Housing Regulation Bill will ensure that when a tenant makes a complaint in relation to their health and safety, they are listened to and the issue is dealt with swiftly.
It will provide regulators who aren’t satisfied with housing standards with the power and authority to enter properties within 48 hours’ notice to make emergency repairs if they feel there is a serious risk to tenants and the landlord is failing to act. The repairs will be paid for by the landlord, not the tenant or the government.
The Housing Secretary is also looking to clamp down on failing private landlords due to a rise in safety concerns within privately rented homes. The government has awarded a share of £14 million to seven areas in the United Kingdom which have high numbers of poor privately rented homes.
Some of the key projects within that budget include giving £2.3m to Greater Manchester to increase fines for offending landlords, giving £678,000 to Leeds to change the culture among landlords, and giving £1.14m to Cornwall to create a database of privately rented accommodation.
What happened to Awaab Ishak was a tragedy and should never have been allowed to happen. While these new regulations are unlikely to be of any consolation to his family, they should hopefully mean that no more toddlers die because of lazy and incompetent landlords. Michael Gove may have many detractors but he deserves credit for his no-nonsense approach to this issue.