Awaab’s Law: Tenants in mouldy homes in Rochdale told they breathe too muchon January 13, 2024 at 7:34 pm

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Tenants share experiences of living in mouldy homes as the government proposes a new law in memory of Awaab Ishak.

Awaab IshakImage source, Family handout

Some residents living in social housing in Rochdale blighted by damp and mould said they had been told they were breathing too much.

The group, who shared their stories at a meeting at a local pub, all live in properties managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH).

The landlord was also responsible for the property where two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from exposure to mould.

RBH said it was working to carry out repairs to affected homes.

Awaab died in December 2020, with the coroner finding his death was due to a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould in his home.

RBH was strongly criticised at the time, with the inquest hearing the boy’s father had repeatedly raised the issue of mould.

The government has proposed that rogue social housing landlords could be forced to repair mouldy homes within 24 hours as part of “Awaab’s law”.

Now, more than a year after the inquest outlined RBH’s failings, other tenants of the housing association told the Local Democracy Reporting Service they fear damp and mould could be slowly killing them too.

Leah Nuttall said her family had been told by the landlord that problems with mould in her flat were “due to them breathing too much at night”.

She described the air in her bedroom as being so “heavy” with damp and mould that she now lives on a mattress in the living room.

tenants meet at pub

Image source, ldrs

“Since we moved in back in 2014, we have had problems with green mould,” she said.

It got so bad, she said, that she pondered whether to stay a hotel for a few weeks just to recover after a tonsillectomy.

Her family claimed problems returned within weeks of remedial work being done by RBH.

Its chief executive Amanda Newton has apologised, adding: “Our top priority is the health and wellbeing of our customers and we are working hard to carry out the repairs required.”

However some tenants have claimed the problems have got worse since 2022.

They say it is difficult to get through to RBH to report issues and that they are spending a long time on hold or being “fobbed off” with short-term fixes for what they see as long-term problems.

‘Furry green mould’

Many said they had been told to use bleach, open their windows or put the heating on – leaving one tenant, Sean Doyle, asking “if they are paying to heat their homes or the street”.

“We’ve been living there for over nine years and we’ve had every problem you can name with the place,” he said.

“We’ve had our 10-year-old son diagnosed with asthma now and the doctor said it is because of this property and bad living conditions.”

He said he was “upset” that “furry green mould” was growing around where his daughter sleeps.

“Every person with an issue needs to get on to it, cruel as it is – no one else wants their children to end up with the same fate as the little boy who died.”

Tania Walsh

Image source, ldrs

He claims he has also waited for workers who do not turn up, costing him lost wages.

RBH said it was making arrangements to carry out work at his home as quickly as possible.

Tania Walsh said she and her family – including her youngest son who had heart problems – suffered “constant chest infections”.

“It is just wet. [RBH employees] paint over it and it just comes back through and it is just not nice to live with in general.

“The mould gets into the kids’ toys and the sofa, and once it is in you can’t get it out – so you have to throw that away.

“It is just draining, I don’t get upset often, but it’s like talking to a brick wall with [RBH].

“They promise you the world and get your hopes up, and then you’re waiting and waiting and then nothing happens.

“We’re labelled as moaning tenants, but we just want something done. It’s not liveable. Home is somewhere to go back to but it’s not even a nice place to be.”

Mould above the radiator at Awaab Ishak's home

Image source, Rochdale Coroner’s Office

In a statement, Ms Newton said RBH would fit additional ventilation and carry out other repairs at Ms Walsh’s home.

“We would like to apologise to Ms Walsh that the measures taken to date have not fully resolved the issue.”

Ms Newton added that “a comprehensive training programme” had been introduced at RBH’s contact centre.

“Like many housing providers, there is high demand for contractors to support work relating to damp, and we are doing our best to prioritise the homes and families affected.”

She encouraged any residents not receiving the service they need to make formal complaints or contact her directly.

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