Tenants should not have to provide medical evidence before landlords address damp and mould that is impacting their health, the Government has said.
Guidance that has been published in response to the death of 2-year-old Awaab Ishak in 2020 after prolonged exposure to mould in his family home, says ‘every person across this country deserves to live in a home that is safe, warm and dry’.
Landlords should tackle the underlying problem causing damp and mould promptly and should not delay action ‘to await medical advice or opinion’.
Medical evidence is not a requirement for action and tenants should not be blamed for damp and mould, the guidance states.
Although anyone worried about the impact of damp and mould on their health should be advised to see a health professional, it adds.
‘Damp and mould in the home are not the result of ‘lifestyle choices’, and it is the responsibility of landlords to identify and address the underlying causes of the problem, such as structural issues or inadequate ventilation,’ it notes.
In 2019, the presence of damp and or mould in English houses was estimated to be associated with around 5,000 cases of asthma and 8,500 lower respiratory infections among children and adults.
The guidance urges those renting out houses, whether they own one or multiple houses, to take a proactive approach rather than waiting for the problem to occur.
And they should build relationships with health and social care and other frontline professionals supporting tenants to ensure that ‘every opportunity to identify tenants living in homes with damp and mould is utilised’.
It is estimated that between 4% and 27% of homes in England have damp and mould, depending on how its measured, which could impact up to 6.5 million households.
Those living in private or social rented housing are more likely to suffer from the problem which can cause serious physical and mental health issues.
The guidance was produced in response to concerns raised by the Coroner looking into the death of Awaab Ishak that there was ‘no evidence that up-to-date relevant health information pertaining to the risks of damp and mould was easily accessible to the housing sector’.
It sets out the severe health effects of living with mould, particularly for a long time, and that those with underlying health conditions, such as respiratory or cardiovascular disease or weakened immune systems are particularly at risk. Children and young people and pregnant women may also be more vulnerable it stresses.
In addition, some people exposed to damp and mould might experience poor mental health as a result because of the anxiety about how it was impacting their health or that of their families as well as social isolation and unpleasant living conditions, the guidance adds.
In a ministerial forward, health secretary Steve Barclay and housing minister Michael Gove said: ‘The tragic death of Awaab Ishak should never have happened. His family’s complaints about their living conditions were repeatedly ignored – an experience that is familiar to many tenants.
‘We urge landlords to read this guidance and adopt the best practices it sets out. This will protect tenants’ health and prevent avoidable tragedies like the death of Awaab Ishak happening to another family.’
This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.