New social housing law after Grenfell fire and toddler death

image source, Family handouts

image caption,

Awaab Ishak died aged two following exposure to mold

New rules to improve social housing conditions after the fatal Grenfell Tower fire and the death of a two-year-old boy due to mold have become law.

Rogue landlords can be given unlimited fines and social housing managers are required to have qualifications.

Housing charity Shelter called the new Social Housing Act “a historic moment” that would affect nine million people.

The government-sponsored Regulator of Social Housing will be able to conduct regular inspections of the largest providers under the law.

The new rules also include the introduction of Awaab’s Law, which sets time limits for social landlords to fix hazards such as damp and mold.

His father repeatedly raised concerns with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) but no action was taken.

image caption,

Seventy-two people died after a fire spread rapidly at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, west London, in 2017

A spokesman for the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities said the law was the “latest step in addressing systemic issues” with landlords’ treatment of tenants following the fire at west London’s Grenfell Tower in 2017 that killed 72 people.

The new requirement for social housing managers to have professional qualifications was called for by the then prime minister, Theresa May, and the campaign group Grenfell United, a campaign group that includes survivors and victims’ relatives.

‘Righting wrongs of past’

The group said the fire “should have been the catalyst for change”, adding they had “fought tirelessly” for six years for the new law.

They described it as “just the beginning”, saying: “There is more to be done and we will not give up until every social housing tenant is treated with respect and dignity.”

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said the new law was “an important step towards righting the wrongs of the past”.

“The Social Housing Act will help to ensure that tenants get the safe, warm and decent homes they deserve – and those who have seriously neglected their responsibilities for far too long will face the consequences.”

image source, Rochdale Coroner’s Office

image caption,

Awaab Ishak’s father uneasily raised concerns about the mold in their home

Social housing includes accommodation for rent below the market rate or for purchase through low-cost home ownership schemes.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The passing of the Social Housing Regulation Act is a historic moment for the nearly nine million people who live in social homes in England.

‘Huge wins’

“Social housing has a vital role to play in providing decent, secure homes that are genuinely affordable for people, but to do that it desperately needs more government investment to both improve existing homes and build new ones.”

Home charity Crisis also described the law as a “huge winlessness for social housing tenants who for too long have been ignored”.

Chief executive Matt Downie said: “The act will finally begin to put right some of the countless horrors tenants have suffered from: flooded corridors, moldy rooms and cramped conditions – absolutely no-one should ever be forced to live like this or have their life put at risk because of poor conditions.”

He also called for the government to build more social housing “if we’re to tackle the housing crisis that is gripping this country”.

The Regulator of Social Housing, which will launch a consultation on consumer standards next week, said they “welcome” the new law which “gives us stronger powers to hold social landlords to account”.

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