Open consultation

Awaab’s Law: Consultation on timescales for repairs in the social rented sector

Published 9 January 2024

Applies to England

Ministerial foreword

The tragic death of Awaab Ishak shocked the nation. The death of a child is always heart-breaking – the more so when it is entirely preventable. Awaab was aged just two when he died in December 2020, as a direct result of exposure to mould in the social home his family rented from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. His parents raised concerns about their living conditions time and again. The landlord not only repeatedly failed to act, but shamefully blamed the family for causing the hazardous mould.

As the Coroner’s ruling into Awaab’s death makes plain, landlord’s must take residents’ concerns about health and safety seriously. The government’s new guidance on the health risks of damp and mould for landlords states that residents should not be blamed for its presence in their homes, and mould in homes must not be pinned on ‘lifestyle choices’ – cooking a meal, having a hot shower and putting clothes out to dry are not discretionary activities but part and parcel of living in your home. It is therefore rightly the responsibility of landlords to identify and address underlying causes, such as structural issues or inadequate ventilation.

Everyone deserves to live in a home that is decent, safe and secure. Awaab’s Law, which was introduced in the landmark Social Housing Regulation Act 2023, requires landlords to investigate and fix reported health hazards within specified timeframes. The primary purpose of this consultation is to set those timeframes, and I hope to hear views from across the sector. The new rules will form part of a tenancy agreement, so that tenants can hold landlords to account by law if they fail to provide a decent home.

Awaab’s parents have sought justice for their son – and all residents of social housing – with dignity and courage. The petition for Awaab’s Law was launched by his parents with Manchester Evening News and Shelter, and their campaign means that tenants will now have the law on their side when landlords fail them and see their living standards improve.

Awaab’s Law is part of the biggest government reforms affecting social housing in a decade. Since 2010, there has been a steady improvement in the quality of social housing with a reduction in the proportion of non-decent social rented homes from 20% in 2010 to 10% in 2021.[footnote 1]  The latest English Housing Survey data, published in July 2023, found that damp and mould affect 177,000 social homes – but residents face other severe problems.[footnote 2] BRE, the built environment research body, estimates that around 217,000 social rented homes are blighted by a range of dangerous health and safety hazards.[footnote 3] The people who live in them, and suffer the consequences, require treatment by the NHS that costs around £65 million a year.

Our Levelling Up White Paper pledged to reduce non-decency in rented homes by 50% by 2030. Awaab’s Law will contribute to this mission by making sure that social housing landlords are taking swift action on the assessment and remedy of the most serious hazards.

Together, these reforms give residents in social housing properties a stronger and louder voice. Everyone deserves to live in good quality homes and to have routes to redress if or when things go wrong.

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Scope of the consultation

This consultation looks at proposals for the implementation of Awaab’s Law, as introduced by the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 (Clause 42 ‘Social housing leases: remedying hazards’).

This consultation is part of an interrelated package of publications relating to social housing quality.

Section 1 provides background information covering:

  • the context and background to Awaab’s Law
  • hazards and repairs in social housing
  • new policy and upcoming changes

Section 2 explains:

  • how Awaab’s Law will be enforced and how the legal route to redress will operate in practice
  • the role of other bodies (the Housing Ombudsman and the Regulator of Social Housing) in holding landlords to account for timely repairs

Section 3 explains:

  • which hazards will be included within the scope of Awaab’s Law
  • each policy proposal in turn

Section 4 explains:

  • the estimated costs and benefits of Awaab’s Law

Geographical scope:

These proposals will apply to England only.

Impact assessment:

Annex A of the consultation sets out the expected impacts (costs and benefits) of the proposals made in this consultation.

Basic information

Body responsible for the consultation:

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities 

Duration: 

This consultation will last for 8 weeks from 9 January 2024. 

Enquiries: 

For any enquiries about the consultation please email:  socialhousingsafety@levellingup.gov.uk

When you enquire, it would be useful if you confirm whether you are replying as an individual or submitting an official response on behalf of an organisation and include: 

  1. your name

  2. your position (if applicable)

  3. the name of your organisation (if applicable)

  4. an email address 

How to respond: 

You may respond by completing this online survey
 
We strongly encourage responses via the online survey, particularly from organisations with access to online facilities such as local councils, representative bodies and businesses. Consultations receive a high-level of interest across many sectors. Using the online survey greatly assists our analysis of the responses, enabling more efficient consideration of the issues raised.  

Alternatively, you can email your response to the questions in this consultation to: socialhousingsafety@levellingup.gov.uk.

If you are responding in writing, please make it clear which questions you are responding to by stating which question number your response, or each part of your response, relates to. The full list of questions can be found in the section below 

Written responses should be sent to: 

Awaab’s Law Consultation
Social Housing Quality and Residents Division
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities 
3rd Floor, Fry Building 
2 Marsham Street
London 
SW1P 4DF

When responding to the consultation, please do not include sensitive personal data such as your name and address within your responses to questions. Personal concerns about repairs and safety issues cannot be resolved through your consultation response. If you have concerns about your social home, please refer to the below information: 

If you are a social rented sector tenant, please see the Make Things Right webpage.

Demographic questions

Question 1. In which capacity are you completing these questions? 

  • resident of the social rented sector
  • local authority registered provider
  • other local authority (not a registered provider)
  • private registered provider of social housing
  • other social landlord (not a registered provider)
  • arms-length management organisation (ALMO)
  • tenant management organisation (TMO)
  • resident representative group
  • landlord representative group
  • industry body
  • charity (not a registered provider)
  • other (please specify) [free text]

Question 2. If responding on behalf of an organisation, please specify which organisation: 

  • [Free text]

Question 3. Social landlords only: where are the properties you manage primarily based?

  • North East
  • North West
  • Yorkshire and the Humber
  • East Midlands
  • West Midlands
  • East of England
  • South West
  • South East
  • London
  • Spread evenly across multiple regions
  • Prefer not to say
  • [Free text]

Question 4. Social landlords only: How many rental properties do you manage? 

  • fewer than 1,000
  • 1,000-9,999
  • 10,000-19,999
  • 20,000-49,999
  • more than 50,000
  • Prefer not to say

Executive summary

1. Everyone deserves to live in a safe and decent home. While many homes in the social rented sector meet this bar, too many landlords are failing to do so. 10% of social rented homes are ‘non-decent’, and 4% of social housing properties are estimated to contain a ‘category 1 hazard’ – meaning they pose the most serious risk of harm under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, including risk of death.[footnote 4]

2. On 21 December 2020, Awaab Ishak died as a result of a severe respiratory condition due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home. His parents had complained to their landlord, who not only failed to take action to address the hazards in the Ishak family’s home, but in fact blamed the family for the extensive mould in the property. The tragic death of Awaab brought to light the urgent need to eradicate these hazards from social homes and improve standards across the sector. The goal must be to ensure that this tragedy never occurs again, and that all social renters have access to the safe and decent social homes they deserve.

3. Following the death of Awaab, Manchester Evening News, Shelter and the Ishak family led a campaign for ‘Awaab’s Law’. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities gave his backing to campaigners’ calls for Awaab’s Law, and the department has worked carefully through the campaign’s recommendations, discussing them with representatives of the Ishak family and campaigners.

4. On 20 July 2023, Awaab’s Law entered the statute book through Clause 42 of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act. Awaab’s Law effectively inserts into social housing tenancy agreements a term (called an implied term) that will require landlords to comply with new requirements, to be set in detail through secondary legislation. This means all registered providers of social housing (also referred to as ‘social landlords’) will have to meet these requirements and, if they fail to do so, tenants will be able to hold their landlords to account by taking legal action through the courts for a breach of contract.[footnote 5]

5. This consultation seeks views on the specific requirements to be set and how these obligations will impact on residents and landlords. In particular, we are consulting on proposals for:

a. timescales for initial investigations of potential hazards;

b. requirements to be placed upon landlords to provide written summaries of investigation findings;

c. timescales for beginning repair works;

d. timescales for completing repair works;

e. timescales for emergency repairs;

f. the circumstances under which properties should be temporarily decanted to protect residents’ health and safety; and

g. requirements to be placed upon landlords to maintain adequate record keeping throughout repair works.

6. Following the consultation, responses will be analysed, and a response published in due course. We will then bring forward secondary legislation to bring Awaab’s Law into force as soon as practicable.

7. We would like to thank everyone who submitted evidence to support the development of this consultation, and we thank in advance respondents to the questions set out in the following chapters.

Introduction

8. Every social housing resident deserves to live in a home that is decent, safe and secure; to receive a high-quality service from their landlord; and to have a strong voice, with tools at their disposal to hold their landlord to account, to have their complaints dealt with swiftly and effectively, and to know that things will be put right when they go wrong. Yet for too many residents in too many places, their experience falls well short of this promise.

9. The government is determined to change that, which is why it has been working hard to improve standards in the social housing sector – redoubling efforts following the devastating Grenfell Tower fire of 2017, and embarking on an ambitious programme of reforms set out in The Charter for Social Housing Residents white paper. In 2021, there were 380,000 (10%) non-decent social rented homes, down from 759,000 (20%) in 2010.[footnote 6]

10. Earlier this year, the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 received Royal Assent. This marked an important milestone in the government’s work to improve the lives of social housing residents, providing new powers to hold poorly performing landlords to account. It includes Awaab’s Law, introduced in response to the tragic death of two-year old Awaab Ishak, which will compel landlords to act so that no-one has to live in conditions that put their health and safety at risk, including damp and mould.

11. On 15 November 2022, the Inquest into the death of Awaab Ishak concluded that he died as a result of a severe respiratory condition, caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home environment. The Ishak family rented their social home from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. The following day, the Senior Coroner for the Coroner area of Manchester North sent a Regulation 28 report detailing matters of concern to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.[footnote 7]

12. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care jointly responded to the Coroner in January 2023, outlining government’s response to each concern, including actions it intended to take. The full Coroner’s report, the letter of response and associated letters can be found at Awaab Ishak - Prevention of future deaths report.

13. While many social residents do live in safe and decent homes, around 164,000 (4%) of social rented homes are estimated to have a category 1 hazard.[footnote 8] The Building Research Establishment (BRE) have estimated that hazards at the most dangerous ‘category 1’ level, if left unmitigated, would result in an annual cost to the NHS of £65 million.[footnote 9] Additionally, the English Housing Survey published in July 2023 reports that 10% of social rented homes are ‘non decent’ and fail the decent homes standard.[footnote 10] Evidence from the Housing Ombudsman Service indicates that many social residents are struggling to engage their landlords on this issue and far too many repairs are taking a long time, putting some residents at severe risk.

14. Following the conclusion of the inquest, the Manchester Evening News and Shelter led a campaign, with the support of the Ishak family, for ‘Awaab’s Law’. The campaign recommended that the government introduce legislation to:

i. require social landlords to investigate the causes of damp and mould within 14 days of complaints being made and provide residents with a report on the findings;

ii. give social landlords 7 days to begin work to repair a property if a medical professional believes there is a risk to a residents’ health;

iii. ensure bids for new social housing properties are treated as a high priority if a medical professional has recommended a resident moves home after identifying a risk to health at their existing property; and

iv. mandate social landlords to provide all residents with information on their rights, how to make a complaint and what standards they can expect under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, provided in simple English or the language a resident is most proficient in.

15. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities gave his backing to campaigners’ calls for Awaab’s Law, and the department has subsequently worked closely with representatives of the Ishak family and campaigners to consider these recommendations.

16. The government sought to address the first two recommendations of the campaign by introducing Awaab’s Law via an amendment to the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill, which became law on 20 July 2023. Awaab’s Law requires the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to set out new legal duties for landlords to address hazards such as damp and mould in social homes within a fixed time period.

17. The third recommendation is already existing practice. Councils have powers to prioritise those with medical needs for an allocation of social housing and make decisions based on local need.

18. The fourth recommendation that calls for residents to be provided with information on their rights and on how to make complaints against their landlords has been addressed through the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023. Clauses in the Act will make sure that all registered providers give their residents the information they need to hold their registered provider to account. A consultation on the specific requirements for landlords regarding provision of information to social housing residents on their rights ran between 27 September and 22 November 2023.

19. This consultation seeks views on how Awaab’s Law should be implemented, specifically regarding time scales for investigations and repairs. We consider it beneficial to set new requirements for action related to a wider range of hazards, not just damp and mould, so social tenants can hold their landlords to account on repairs whether the issue is damp and mould or another hazard. Further information on the definition of hazards can be found in Annex C: Glossary.

20. We would like to thank Shelter and Manchester Evening News for their campaign and thank the Ishak family and their legal representatives for working with the government on this important issue.

1. Context and background

Damp and mould

21. Awaab Ishak died from a respiratory condition due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home. Sadly, living with dampness and black mould is not unusual for many social renters. According to the English Housing Survey, around 935,000 homes (4%) in England had damp problems in 2021, an increase of just over 3% from 2019. Of these homes, around 4% were in the social rented sector with 11% in the private rented sector and 2% classed as owner-occupied.[footnote 11]

22. Damp and mould growth is one of the most prevalent and costly hazards in terms of repair costs and costs to the NHS.[footnote 12]

23. Living with damp and mould can have serious health implications for residents, including respiratory infections, asthma development or exacerbation and cardiovascular effects, with an increased risk of heart disease and cardiac events. These can pose an even greater danger to vulnerable individuals, such as children, older people and people with weaker immune systems. Damp and mould can also have a negative impact on mental health, particularly where residents experience stressors associated with being unable to afford solutions to adverse living conditions. These stressors include low income, fear of debt, damage to possessions from damp and mould, stigma, and social isolation.[footnote 13]

24. Between November 2022 and June 2023, the Regulator of Social Housing (‘The Regulator’) received 12 self-referrals from social landlords for potential breaches of the Decent Homes Standard due to damp and mould, and 38 referrals from other sources. In the 386 responses they received to the survey they conducted after the Coroner’s Report, 11 landlords reported over 50 category 1 HHSRS damp and mould hazards in homes they manage, and 53 landlords reported over 100 category 2 damp and mould hazards. Whilst acknowledging the incomplete picture, The Regulator’s survey estimated that fewer than 0.2% of social homes have the most serious damp and mould problems, 1-2% have serious damp and mould problems, and 3-4% have notable damp and mould problems.[footnote 14]

25. Based on Housing Ombudsman data, the number of social residents complaining of damp, mould and leaks increased by 77% between 2020-21 (1,993) and 2021-22 (3,530).[footnote 15] The same report conveyed an increase of 134% in the number of determinations on mould and leak cases over the same time period, of which the number of outcomes upheld rose from 37% in 2020-21 to 45% in 2021-22.[footnote 16] As of 16 October 2023, the Housing Ombudsman had received 5,460 complaints about damp, mould and leaks in 2022-23.

26. Damp and mould must not be dismissed as a ‘lifestyle issue’. While condensation can of course be created by necessary and normal daily activities, such as bathing, cooking and drying clothes, residents should be able to complete these activities without being blamed for pervasive damp and mould.[footnote 17]

27. One of the concerns raised in the Coroner’s report was 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.[footnote 18] New guidance has been developed by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) with an advisory group of experts. The guidance (Damp and mould: understanding and addressing the health risks for rented housing providers) sets out what landlords, housing professionals and residents should do to deal with mould, with an emphasis on landlord responsibilities in addressing the underlying causes of damp and mould. The government’s 2020 social housing white paper announced that we would review the Decent Homes Standard, which has set the minimum standard of physical decency for social rented sector homes since 2001.[footnote 19]

Hazards and repairs in social housing

28. Damp and mould are not the only hazardous conditions that can have detrimental impacts on residents’ health and safety in social housing. The most common hazards according to the BRE are unsafe stairs, falls, overcrowding, excess cold, and damp and mould growth.[footnote 20] BRE estimate that around 217,000 social rented homes have the most serious HHSRS hazards, costing the NHS approximately £65 million per year.

29. The mould in Awaab Ishak’s family home was first reported to the social landlord in 2017, and in the 3 year period between the landlord being notified and Awaab’s death, no action had been taken by the landlord to treat the mould.[footnote 21]  This case demonstrates that social residents are often having to wait long periods of time for health and safety issues in their home to be addressed, which can leave residents feeling helpless and in the worst cases can put them at risk. The Housing Ombudsman received 5,398 complaints about damp, mould and leaks in 2022.  This year alone (2023), the Housing Ombudsman has reported 19 severe maladministration cases involving residents having to wait unacceptably lengthy periods for repairs.[footnote 22]

30. Landlords of social housing are responsible for most repairs in their residents’ homes. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires landlords to make repairs to electrical wiring, gas pipes and boilers, heating and hot water, sinks, baths, toilets, pipes and drains, and the structure and exterior of the property, including walls, stairs and bannisters, the roof, chimneys, external doors and windows. Section 9A of that Act (inserted by the Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018) requires landlords to make sure that homes are fit for human habitation. In determining whether a property is ‘fit’, regard is given to its condition in respect of specified matters which include any hazards under the HHSRS. To be fit for human habitation a home must be safe, healthy and free from things that could cause residents serious harm.

31. Registered providers of social housing must also ensure their homes meet the Decent Homes Standard, meaning the property must be free from dangerous (category 1) hazards, be in a reasonable state of repair, have reasonably modern facilities and services and provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort. Social landlords will also usually have their own repair policies and tenancy agreements which often set out any extra responsibilities that they have. We are currently reviewing the Decent Homes Standard to ensure that it is up to date and reflects modern expectations of a decent home.

32. There is currently no specific legislation that sets out how long a registered provider has in order to make repairs once they know about a hazard. Under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, if a landlord is made aware of a hazard that makes a home not fit to live in, they have a duty to rectify any problems within a reasonable amount of time. If a case reaches court, the judge will determine what a reasonable timeframe for rectifying the issue would be based on the facts of the individual case, including factors such as the extent of the disrepair, the availability of replacement parts and at what point the landlord became aware of the need for the repair. It does not necessarily need to be the tenant who makes the landlord aware – it can simply be the landlord’s own knowledge. For example, the registered provider would have knowledge if they noticed disrepair during a routine visit even if the tenant did not inform them. A landlord becomes liable if they then fail to carry out the repair within a reasonable timeframe.

33. Through Awaab’s Law, we want to make it clear to social landlords and residents the timeframes within which investigations and repairs must be actioned to protect residents from health or safety risks in their homes.

New policy and upcoming changes to drive up standards in social housing

Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023

34. The Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 marks the biggest change to social housing regulation in a decade. It will reform the regulatory regime to facilitate significant change in social landlords’ behaviour, making sure that they focus on the needs of their residents, and are held to account for their performance.[footnote 23]  The Act underpins a new, proactive approach to regulating social housing landlords on issues such as decency, safety, transparency, conduct of staff and resident engagement, with new enforcement powers to tackle failing landlords.

35. The Housing Ombudsman Service has also been strengthened through the Act, with powers to order a registered provider to review their policy or practice on matters that may give rise to further complaints, and to issue a complaint handling code and good practice guidance. More information on the Housing Ombudsman can be found under the enforcement section of this consultation.

HHSRS review and updated guidance

36. Over the last two years, a sounding board of experts and stakeholders from across the sector have been contributing to a review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. The review aimed to streamline the process that local councils take in inspecting properties to assess hazards and make it easier for landlords and residents to understand the standards required. Therefore, reviewing and updating the HHSRS is integral to the government’s commitment to ensuring that all residents have a safe and decent standard of housing, free from dangerously hazardous conditions. The government has now concluded and published the HHSRS review and will agree next steps in due course.[footnote 24]

Damp and mould guidance

37. As previously mentioned, the government has published guidance (Damp and mould: understanding and addressing the health risks for rented housing providers) on the health risks of damp and mould in the home for housing providers in the social and private rented sectors.

38. The guidance is designed to consolidate existing information and does not represent a change in the regulatory landscape governing damp and mould in the home. The guidance focuses on the health impacts of damp and mould and the vulnerabilities of different groups. It sets out what landlords (both private and social), housing professionals and residents should do to deal with mould, with an emphasis on landlord responsibilities such as responding promptly and sensitively, and understanding and addressing the underlying causes of damp and mould. It covers issues related to condensation, such as poor ventilation, low indoor temperature, and poor energy efficiency, and how landlords should work with residents to help them understand what they can do to reduce damp and mould.

39. Landlords should take this guidance into account to inform their investigations regarding damp and mould in their properties.

2. Enforcement of Awaab’s Law

40. The intent of Awaab’s Law is to prevent another tragedy such as that of the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, and for social landlords to understand exactly what they need to do, and by when, if one of their residents reports a hazard in their property.

Implied terms and routes to redress

41. Awaab’s Law effectively inserts (or in legal terms ‘implies’) into social housing tenancy agreements a term that requires landlords to comply with new requirements, which are to be set out in regulations. This means all registered providers will have to meet these requirements, and if they do not, residents will be able to hold their landlords to account by taking legal action through the courts for a breach of contract. If a case does reach the court, and the registered provider is found to be in breach, the court can order the landlord to do the repairs, pay compensation to the resident or pay some or all of the resident’s legal costs. Alternatively, residents may wish to complain to their landlord, which could then be escalated to the Housing Ombudsman. Similar to the legal route, the Housing Ombudsman has the power to order landlords to undertake repairs and pay compensation to the resident. More information on the Housing Ombudsman Service can be found below.

42. If a legal route is chosen, it may be possible to resolve issues before they reach the court. The Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Conditions Claims can be used for cases where, despite the landlord’s knowledge of the poor conditions, matters remain unresolved. The pre-action protocol aims to avoid unnecessary litigation, promote the speedy completion of any remedial works and ensure that tenants receive any compensation to which they are entitled.[footnote 25] The protocol encourages tenants and landlords to consider alternative dispute resolution instead of going to court, which should be a last resort.

43. Use of the pre-action protocol does not constitute legal proceedings. Therefore, using the pre-action protocol does not prevent the social landlord from responding through their own complaints procedure, nor does it prevent the Housing Ombudsman from formally investigating.

44. We have been clear that legal proceedings should not get in the way of landlords taking action on repairs. Residents and landlords can, and should, continue to engage on repair works even if legal proceedings are underway, or a complaint is with the Housing Ombudsman.

The Housing Ombudsman

45. The Housing Ombudsman Service provides an independent and impartial service to investigate complaints against registered providers of social housing in England and other member landlords.

46. The Ombudsman will determine whether a member landlord has been responsible for maladministration while carrying out its functions. Maladministration can include where a landlord:

  • failed to comply with any relevant legal obligations
  • failed to comply with any relevant codes of practice
  • failed to apply its own policies and/or procedures
  • delayed unreasonably in dealing with the matter
  • behaved unfairly, unreasonably or incompetently; or
  • treated the complainant personally in a heavy-handed, unsympathetic or inappropriate manner

47. Where the Ombudsman determines there has been maladministration, it can order the housing provider to take steps to put things right or to compensate the complainant, including undertaking repairs or inspecting the property to identify and resolve hazards. These orders have to be complied with by landlords under the Housing Act 1996 and the Ombudsman monitors compliance with them before a case is closed.

48. The Housing Ombudsman is a free service for residents and seeks to promote dispute resolution between registered providers and residents.

49. The Housing Ombudsman sets a code of practice for landlord complaint handling, called the Complaint Handling Code, which its members are required to follow under the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023.  If a complaint is unresolved following the landlord’s final response, the complaint can be escalated to the Ombudsman for investigation.

50. The Housing Ombudsman can also refer cases to the Regulator if there is evidence of a potential systemic issue.

The Regulator of Social Housing

51. The Regulator of Social Housing is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by DLUHC. The Regulator undertakes consumer and economic regulation of social housing providers. From 1 April 2024, its consumer regulation role will change and will allow the Regulator to conduct periodic inspections of registered providers.

52. Unlike the Housing Ombudsman, the Regulator does not have a role in regulating individual issues. Instead, the Regulator’s role involves setting standards that registered providers must meet and holding them to account for meeting their standards. The Regulator looks at an organisational level, seeking assurance that the registered provider has the right systems and processes to enable it to meet the outcomes required by the standards. The Regulator has a range of tools available, including a suite of enforcement powers, which they can use where a provider is unable or unwilling to meet its standards.

53. The Regulator has recently consulted on a revised suite of standards. These include expectations on health and safety and repairs as well as providing homes that are decent, safe and well-maintained. The draft standards require registered providers to inform the Regulator of any material actual or potential non-compliance with the consumer standards. This would include any breaches of Awaab’s Law that registered providers consider to be a material failure to deliver the outcomes required by the regulator’s standards. Following the introduction of the Tenant Satisfaction Measures standard in April 2023, registered providers are also required to report on a suite of measures that includes measures relating to repairs and the safety and quality of homes.

54. If social landlords consider themselves to be in breach of the requirements under Awaab’s Law, they should consider whether the breach constitutes a material failure to deliver the outcomes required by the Regulator’s standards and self-refer to the Regulator if so. Where the Regulator considers a provider has significantly failed to deliver the outcomes required by its standards it will take action.

3. Awaab’s Law

Scope of Awaab’s Law: Hazards

55. The Awaab’s Law campaign focused specifically on timescales for landlords to respond to complaints of damp and mould in social homes.  We propose that Awaab’s Law should take into account the 29 health and safety hazards (detailed below) set out by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).[footnote 26]

HHSRS Health and Safety Hazards

1. Damp and mould growth
2. Excess cold
3. Excess heat
4. Asbestos and MMF
5. Biocides
6. Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
7. Lead
8. Radiation
9. Uncombusted fuel gas
10. Volatile organic compounds
11. Crowding and space
12. Entry by intruders
13. Lighting
14. Noise
15. Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse
16. Food safety
17. Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
18. Water supply
19. Falls associated with baths etc.
20. Falling on level surfaces etc.
21. Falling on stairs etc.
22. Falling between levels
23. Electrical hazards
24. Fire
25. Flames, hot surfaces etc.
26. Collision and entrapment
27. Explosions
28. Position and operability of amenities etc.
29. Structural collapse and falling elements

56. The HHSRS operates by evaluating the potential risk of harm to an actual or potential occupier from their living environment and is a means of rating the danger posed by a health and safety hazard. Under the Decent Homes Standard, a dwelling should be free from hazards that an HHSRS assessment has shown are at the most dangerous ‘category 1’ level. Our recent review of the HHSRS proposed, among other recommendations, to amalgamate some hazards, reducing the total number from 29 to 21.[footnote 27]

57. We propose defining hazards in scope of Awaab’s Law as those that pose a significant risk to the health or safety of the actual resident of the dwelling. This means that a hazard does not have to be at category 1 level in order to be in scope of Awaab’s Law. This is because there may be instances where a particular resident is at a greater risk from hazardous conditions, for example a resident with asthma may be at greater risk from a home affected by damp and mould. An HHSRS assessment does not take the actual resident into account when establishing if a hazard is at category 1 level. Instead, it assesses whether the risk arising from the hazard is greater for a particular age group than any other age group in the population.

58. To determine whether a hazard poses a significant risk and is therefore in scope of Awaab’s Law, our recommendation is that landlords use their judgement and the existing processes they have in place for triaging repairs. Landlords should also utilise a range of available information to determine whether there is a risk to residents, including HHSRS guidance, information about residents’ vulnerability or age, and other available guidance including the consolidated guidance from DHSC and DLUHC on health risks in housing (Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home). If a landlord receives evidence from third parties - for example from registered healthcare providers, social workers, or schools - they should also factor this into their assessment.

59. Some examples of the types of hazards that would be in scope of Awaab’s Law can be found in Annex B of the consultation.

Question 1. Do you agree that Awaab’s Law should apply to all HHSRS hazards, not just damp and mould? (Y/N)

Question 2. Do you agree the right threshold for hazards in scope of Awaab’s Law are those that could pose a significant risk to the health or safety of the resident? (Y/N)

Question 3. If you have answered ‘no’ to any of the questions in this section, please provide an explanation (with evidence where possible) and/or an alternative suggestion (free text).

Awaab’s Law proposals

Disclaimer

60. Awaab’s Law has been introduced through the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 (Clause 42 Social housing leases: remedying hazards).

61. We have attempted to provide clarification on the details of the requirements and the types of hazards and scenarios that would fall within the scope of Awaab’s Law. We will publish guidance accompanying the regulations to ensure residents understand their rights and to support landlords with compliance. Ultimately, it will be for the courts to judge if a registered provider is in breach of Awaab’s Law.

Proposal 1: Initial investigations of potential hazards 

Proposal 1. If a registered provider is made aware of a potential hazard in a social home, they must investigate within 14 calendar days to ascertain if there is a hazard.  

Timeframe for investigating hazards

62. The Awaab’s Law campaign recommended that social landlords be required to investigate the causes of damp and mould within 14 calendar days of a complaint being made. We have tested this with stakeholders (including residents and social landlords) and consider the 14-day time scale appropriate. As noted above, we propose extending the scope of Awaab’s Law to include all hazards as defined by the HHSRS).

63. Social landlords must be aware of the hazard in order for these timescales to apply. We propose that the registered provider can be made aware of a hazard by any traditional means (for example by email, phone call, letters or other means that landlords offer for residents to raise service requests), as well as becoming aware of the hazard through their own scheduled surveys or investigations. The point at which the registered provider becomes aware of a potential hazard is the point at which legal obligations under Awaab’s Law will begin. It will not be necessary for residents to take a complaint through a landlord’s formal complaints procedure in order to trigger the timescales.

64. Landlords should log any reports of potential hazards appropriately and make sure they are keeping a record. They should ensure that these are received, and action is taken by the relevant individuals or teams within an organisation. The record of any complaint or enquiry should be clear and adequately detailed.

The investigation

65. The investigation must sufficiently determine whether there is a hazard, and if so, the level of risk to a resident’s health or safety. Therefore, whoever conducts the investigation will be expected to hold the right skills and experience to make this determination.

66. Landlords will not be expected to physically inspect all properties where a potential hazard is reported to ascertain if there is a hazard. Modern technology allows for information sharing (for example photos and videos) that can facilitate remote investigations in some circumstances. Landlords will be expected to make a judgement on the best way to conduct an investigation, however, should a resident request a physical investigation, the registered provider must arrange for a physical investigation of the property within 14 calendar days of the potential hazard initially being reported.

Assessing risk to residents

67. In cases where residents report damp and mould in their properties, landlords should refer to the government’s guidance on the health risks of damp and mould in the home  as this guidance sets out the health risks of damp and mould, and actions that can be taken by housing providers to address and reduce the risk of damp and mould in their properties. The guidance includes information for landlords on people who are most at risk of health issues from damp and mould, housing conditions that increase a tenant’s risk of living in a home with damp and mould, and an overview of what landlords should consider when addressing reports of damp and mould.

68. If a hazard is affecting or likely to negatively affect, a resident’s health or safety, it will be considered in scope of Awaab’s Law. To determine whether a hazard is negatively affecting a resident’s health and safety, landlords may wish to consider any vulnerabilities of the resident of which they are aware (including if a resident has made them aware), and correlation or potential correlation between vulnerability and health effects of a hazard. If a registered provider is unable to determine whether a hazard poses a significant risk to a resident’s health or safety, they should take a cautious approach and take any necessary action to mitigate health risks. We will publish guidance for social landlords on Awaab’s Law.

Medical evidence

69. The Awaab’s Law campaign proposed that social landlords be given 7 days to begin work to a property if a medical professional believes there is a risk to a residents’ health. Whilst we do propose that landlords be given 7 days to begin work where there is a risk to a residents’ health or safety (see proposal 3), we do not propose that medical evidence be required to determine this risk.

70. The government is committed to reducing requests on GPs to verify medical evidence, as outlined in the Delivery plan for recovering access for primary care (2023). In the delivery plan, we stated we would be exploring opportunities to improve efficiencies for both GPs and local authorities regarding the medical needs of people wishing to access social housing, such as updating guidance to local authorities and housing associations on when it is appropriate to seek medical advice.

71. We do not consider it proportionate or necessary to place requirements on residents who are suffering from hazardous conditions in their homes to seek evidence from a regulated healthcare professional to demonstrate the impact on their health, nor do we wish to create additional burdens on NHS services. Further, we do not wish to see residents having to pay for private medical certificates to compel landlords to make repairs. Where residents choose to present their landlords with medical evidence, for example, instances when a registered provider and a resident disagree on the severity of a hazard and the impact it has on residents’ health, landlords should take the medical evidence presented into consideration as part of their investigation. As noted above, if a registered provider receives evidence from third parties (for example from registered healthcare providers, social workers, or schools), they should factor this into their assessment of the severity of the hazard.

Damp and mould

72. When investigating reports of damp and mould, it is crucial that the issue is not simply dismissed as a resident’s fault. The Housing Ombudsman’s report ‘It’s not lifestyle’[footnote 28], as well as the DHSC and DLUHC joint guidance on the health risks of damp and mould in the home, has made clear that damp and mould cases should not be dismissed as caused by ‘lifestyle choices’ of residents. These reports have shown that this can lead to cases being misdiagnosed and unfairly blamed upon residents. Landlords should review, alongside residents, their initial response to reports of damp and mould to ensure they avoid automatically apportioning blame or using language that leaves residents feeling at fault.

73. Although landlords would have up to 14 calendar days to investigate potential hazards, we expect landlords to be taking action as quickly as possible, continuing to aim to meet their own repair and maintenance targets, and to not delay any investigations.

Question 4. Do you agree with the proposal that social landlords should have 14 calendar days to investigate hazards? (Y/N)

Question 5. Do you agree that medical evidence should not be required for an investigation? (Y/N)

Question 6. If you have answered ‘no’ to any of the questions in this section, please provide an explanation (with evidence where possible) and/or an alternative suggestion (free text)

Proposal 2: Written summaries of investigation findings

Proposal 2. Within 14 calendar days of being made aware that there is a potential hazard in a social home, the registered provider must provide a written summary of findings to the resident that includes details of any hazard identified and (if applicable) next steps, including an anticipated timeline for repair and a schedule of works.  

74. The campaign for Awaab’s Law called for landlords to be required to provide residents with a report on the findings of the investigation. We propose that residents be issued with a written summary of the findings of the investigation within 48 hours of the investigation concluding.

75. The written summary must specify, at minimum:

  • How and when the investigation was conducted, and the job title of the individual who conducted the investigation.
  • Any following investigations that are required, and if so when they will take place
  • If a hazard was found and if so what
  • Whether the hazard is likely to pose a significant risk to residents’ health or safety
  • If it does pose a risk:
    • [If applicable] what temporary repairs are needed to make the property safe until the problem can be permanently rectified
    • what the registered provider will do to permanently rectify the problem and the likely timescales for this
  • How to contact the registered provider with any queries

76. If a hazard is identified through the investigation that poses a significant and imminent risk of harm to the health or safety of an individual, we are proposing that a separate, shorter timescale will apply. More information on this subset of hazards (referred to as ‘emergency hazards’) can be found at Proposal 5.

77. Social landlords will not be required to provide a written summary ahead of completing repair works when addressing emergency hazards.  In circumstances where temporary measures have been put in place to address emergency hazards or where residents have been offered suitable alternative accommodation, landlords will be expected to issue a written summary to the resident to ensure they understand the issue in their home, what the registered provider will do to permanently rectify the problem and the likely timescales for this.

78. Registered providers should take into consideration any accessibility and/or language needs of the resident to ensure that the summary of findings can be understood.

79. It is not acceptable for registered providers to delay issuing the written summary in order to secure additional time to begin repair works. We propose that the written summary can be issued to residents electronically (for example by email) or by issuing a hard copy, depending on residents’ communication preferences and needs.

80. Even if the outcome of a registered providers investigation was that no hazard was identified, we propose requiring the registered provider to produce a summary communicating this clearly with residents, in writing. This should detail how the investigation was conducted and how the conclusion of no hazard was reached, so that the residents in question can be assured their home is safe.  Similarly, if the investigation identifies a hazard, but does not find that the hazard poses a significant risk to a resident’s health and safety, the registered provider should provide a written summary that explains why the hazard is not deemed in scope of Awaab’s Law, and set out proposed next steps (for example how the registered provider will action this as a routine repair).

81. If, within 48 hours of the investigation, the registered provider is not able to set out full details of wider repair works, and only the immediate steps they are taking (i.e. temporary repairs), they should inform the resident of when they can expect a full schedule of works.

82. We recognise that in some cases (for example issues involving structural damp) a full investigation into the cause of the problem can take longer than 14 days. Social landlords will still be required to conduct an initial investigation as soon as possible and within that 14 day period to assess the severity of the issue and determine next steps (which may include arranging for a specialist damp survey). There may be instances where the social landlord will not be in a position to set out exact dates for next steps (for example, where dates are dependent on external contractors’ availability. In those instances, social landlords should provide an estimated timeframe to residents and follow up with specific timings.

83. We believe the written summary of findings will be beneficial to both residents and registered providers. The written summary will ensure residents are informed of the issues in their homes and what to expect from their registered providers, so they have grounds to challenge them if they fail to action repairs.  The minimum requirements for the written summary outlined above are intended to provide clarity to registered providers on what, at a minimum, their investigation will need to determine. The written summary will also make sure there is an effective record of the investigation, findings, and correspondence with residents, should the circumstances of a reported case change, develop or require revisiting at any point. Dealing effectively with any challenge or legal claims from residents will be dependent on registered providers’ records being comprehensive and detailed on the complaint made and the actions the registered providers took in response.

Question 7. Do you agree with the proposal for registered providers to provide a written summary to residents of the investigation findings? (Y/N)

Question 8. Do you agree with the minimum requirements for information to be contained in the written report? (Y/N)

Question 9. Do you agree registered providers should have 48 hours to issue the written summary? (Y/N)

Question 10. If you have answered ‘no’ to any of the questions in this section, please provide an explanation (with evidence where possible) and/or an alternative suggestion (free text)

Proposal 3: Beginning repair works

Proposal 3. If the investigation indicates that a reported hazard poses a significant risk to the health or safety of the resident, the registered provider must begin repair works within 7 calendar days of the written summary being issued.

84. The Awaab’s Law campaign called for registered providers to be given 7 days to begin work to repair a property if a medical professional believes there is a risk to a resident’s health.

85. We propose that if the investigation (as set out in proposals 1 and 2) finds a hazard that poses significant risk to the health or safety of the resident, the registered providers must begin work to repair the hazard within 7 days of the written summary being issued.

86. The level of risk that a hazard presents will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, making ‘significant risk of harm’ a subjective term. Landlords are not required to conduct an HHSRS assessment to determine the level of hazard. However, landlords may wish to review the HHSRS Operating Guidance, which offers examples of harm outcomes ranging from the most extreme (class i) to those that are significant enough to warrant medical attention (class iv).[footnote 29]

87. We consider that ‘beginning’ repair works would entail a worker being on site physically starting to repair and rectify a hazard. It will be irrelevant whether works are carried out by in-house workers, external contractors, or a combination.

88. Because of the range of hazards, and varying ways they can impact individuals’ health and safety, there is a significant challenge in prescribing a clear threshold for beginning works that can apply to all circumstances. We believe that defining the hazards in scope of Awaab’s Law as those that pose a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of the resident is appropriate. As noted above, if a registered provider is unable to determine whether a hazard poses a significant risk to a resident’s health or safety, they should take a cautious approach and take any necessary action to mitigate health risks.

89. We recognise that in some situations registered providers may wish to take a phased approach to more complex remediation works, and temporary works will be required to keep the property safe before wider works are completed. For example, in cases of damp and mould this could include temporary works to remove the mould spores to mitigate the health risk, with wider repair works to follow. In such situations, registered providers must still begin works within 7 days, and details of further works must be included in the written report set out under proposal 2.

Question 11. Do you agree with the proposal that if an investigation finds a hazard that poses significant risk to the health or safety of the resident, the registered provider must begin to repair the hazard within 7 days of the report concluding? (Y/N)

Question 12. Do you agree that in instances of damp and mould, the registered provider should take action to remove the mould spores as soon as possible? (Y/N)

Question 13. Do you agree with the proposed interpretation of ‘begin’ repair works? (Y/N)

Question 14. If you have answered ‘no’ to any of the questions in this section, please provide an explanation (with evidence where possible) and/or an alternative suggestion (free text)

Proposal 4: Completing repair works

Proposal 4: The registered provider must satisfactorily complete repair works within a reasonable time period. The resident should be informed of this time period and their needs should be considered.

90. We have heard concerns that time limits for beginning repairs only, and not specifying a time limit for completion, risks residents being left for long periods of time with outstanding repair works in their home.  We recognise that some hazards will be more complex than others to repair and for this reason believe it would be impractical to set a fixed time limit for the completion of all repairs under Awaab’s Law.

91. Many repairs can be completed in a matter of hours or days, such as installing a new boiler or replacing a broken window, whilst structural damp issues can take several weeks and require ongoing monitoring. If we set fixed time limits for completing repairs, registered providers faced with more complex issues may be forced to find ‘quick’ fixes that may not fully address the issue at hand, creating further problems for residents. There is also a risk that any time limits for completion could incentivise registered providers to take longer than they need to for quicker and smaller repairs.

92. We propose that registered providers should be required to complete repairs within a reasonable period - meaning repairs should not be unreasonably delayed and evidence should be provided where delays to repairs are necessary.  Planned programmes of works in the future cannot substitute work needed to address hazards in social homes, which must be prioritised.

93. Timescales for the completion of works should reflect the nature of the problem, for example repairing space and water heating systems must be treated more urgently during colder weather and can be challenged by the tenant.

94. Timescales for completing repairs should be proportionate to the scale of the repair and consider the needs of occupants. For example, tighter timescales may be required for elderly or vulnerable individuals.

95. This requirement would be in line with registered providers’ existing obligations to make repairs within a reasonable amount of time under terms implied into tenancy agreements through section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Question 15. Do you agree that the registered provider must satisfactorily complete repair works within a reasonable time period, and that the resident should be informed of this time period and their needs considered?  (Y/N)

Question 16. If you have answered ‘no’ to the question in this section, please provide an explanation (with evidence where possible) and/or an alternative suggestion (free text)

Proposal 5: Timescales for emergency repairs

Proposal 5. The registered provider must action emergency repairs as soon as practicable and, in any event, within 24 hours.

96. Although mandating separate, shorter, timescales for this subset of hazards was not a proposal under the Awaab’s Law campaign, we recognise that emergency repairs are of great importance to the health and wellbeing of tenants. We therefore propose that timescales for emergency repairs should also be set out in legislation to strengthen protections for tenants against poor health outcomes caused by hazards in their homes.

97. We consider that hazards warranting emergency repairs are those that present a significant and imminent risk of harm.

98. There will be circumstances where a resident reports a hazard in their home that warrants an emergency repair. Hazards that pose significant and imminent danger to residents will require faster action and should be treated as an emergency by the landlord. For example:

  • gas leaks
  • broken boilers
  • lack of water supply
  • electrical hazards such as exposed wiring
  • significant leaks
  • broken external doors or windows that present a risk to home security
  • prevalent damp and mould that is impacting a resident’s ability to breathe

99. The majority of social landlords already have in place repairs and maintenance policies that stipulate different timeframes for ‘emergency’, ‘urgent’ (in some cases) and ‘routine’ repairs. The target timeframes for emergency repairs are typically within 24 hours.

100. The required response time for emergency hazards will vary according to the nature of the issue and the circumstances. For example, a broken external door in a property facing a busy road where a child lives will require a faster response than a broken door external door in a block of flats occupied by two adults, but each scenario would warrant the landlord responding to this as an emergency.

101. Because emergency issues can vary in nature and therefore warrant different response times, we propose that social landlords be required by law to action emergency repairs as soon as practicable and, in any event, within 24 hours. This would mean that social landlords must continue to attend to emergency repairs as soon as possible to ensure they are meeting their duties to keep homes fit for human habitation, free of category 1 hazards and ultimately to ensure they are protecting their residents from harm, and if they fail to do so they can face legal challenge from tenants.

Question 17. Do you agree that timescales for emergency repairs should be set out in legislation? (Y/N)

Question 18.  Do you agree that social landlords should be required by law to action emergency repairs as soon as practicable and, in any event, within 24 hours? (Y/N)

Question 19. If you have answered ‘no’ to any of the questions in this section, please provide an explanation (with evidence where possible) and/or an alternative suggestion (free text)

Proposal 6: Decanting if the property cannot be made safe immediately

Proposal 6. In the event that the investigation finds a hazard that poses a significant, or a significant and imminent, risk of harm or danger, and the property cannot be made safe within the specified timescales for Awaab’s Law, the registered provider must offer to arrange for the occupant(s) to stay in suitable alternative accommodation until it is safe to return.

102. As noted, we recognise that there may be limited circumstances where landlords are unable to begin or complete repair works within set timeframes. In such circumstances the registered provider is expected to address the hazard and make sure the property is safe for the resident to remain in, using temporary measures where necessary. For example, if a severe electrical hazard was found and a qualified electrician was not available until the next day resulting in electricity in the property being switched off, the landlord should offer for residents to stay in alternative accommodation for the night until the qualified electrician can attend. If a window is broken in colder months and a replacement window will not be available for several weeks, the landlord should install temporary insulation measures within 7 days, and if for any reason they are unable to, they should offer the residents to stay in alternative accommodation until the issue can be fixed.

103. We propose that if for any reason the registered provider is unable to make the property safe with repair works or temporary measures, they must offer for the resident to be temporarily decanted at the landlord’s expense before it can be addressed. Engagement with the sector has informed our understanding that this proposal is in line with existing repair and decant policies across providers. Suitable alternative accommodation could include vacant social housing stock or hotels.

104. This proposal is intended to make sure that residents can be protected if dangerous hazards cannot be removed within the timescales set through Awaab’s Law. We recognise that some residents will have reasons to resist being moved from their homes, even if temporarily. In those instances, landlords must provide residents with clear information on how to keep themselves and their families safe ahead of the hazard being addressed, including if it is the landlord’s judgement that it is not possible to do so. We propose that landlords keep records of their correspondence with residents on offering alternative suitable accommodation.

105. We propose (proposal 7) including in regulations provision for a defence if landlords have taken all reasonable steps to comply, but it has not been possible for reasons beyond their control.

Question 20. Do you agree that landlords should arrange for residents to stay in temporary accommodation (at the landlord’s expense) if the property can’t be made safe within the specified timescales? (Y/N)

Question 21.  If you have answered ‘no’ to the question in this section, please provide an explanation (with evidence where possible) and/or an alternative suggestion (free text)

Proposal 7: Record-keeping

Proposal 7. The registered provider will be expected to keep clear records of all attempts to comply with the proposals, including records of all correspondence with the resident(s) and any contractors. If the registered provider makes all reasonable attempts to comply with the timescales but is unable to for reasons genuinely beyond their control, they will be expected to provide a record of the reasons that prevented them from doing so.  

106. We want any new requirements to be proportionate and deliverable for landlords, whilst achieving the best outcomes for residents. We recognise that in certain limited circumstances, fixed time limits will not be possible for landlords to meet for reasons beyond their control. We propose including in regulations provision for a defence if landlords have taken all reasonable steps to comply, but it has not been possible for reasons genuinely beyond their control.

107. We propose that landlords keep records of their attempts to comply with Awaab’s Law, so that in instances where they fail to meet time limits for reasons beyond their control, they can defend themselves if residents choose to take legal action.

108. Whilst we will not be proscriptive about what constitutes such an instance, two examples of circumstances that might pose legitimate barriers to landlords meeting the timescales are provided below, to help inform responses.

Access

109. In this first example, a registered provider is unable to access a property to conduct an investigation or make repairs despite several reasonable approaches to do so.

110. The following actions would be taken to constitute reasonable attempts for access.

  • landlords must make at least 3 attempts to contact the resident (or appointed representative) and arrange a suitable time to access the property
  • landlords must work with residents to arrange a suitable time to visit the property. Landlords should offer timeslots for residents to choose from and should take into consideration the residents’ needs (for example their working pattern) when offering timeslots to attend to the property
  • if the registered provider is unable to access the property within the agreed timeslot, they should leave the resident a notice stating that an attempt was made and providing contact details. The registered provider should contact the resident and offer an alternative slot
  • landlords will not be expected to make more than 3 attempts to access the property within agreed timeslots. They will be expected to keep evidence that they have made best efforts to work with the resident to identify a timeslot and the resident has either not responded or has refused access within that slot
  • throughout this process, we will require landlords to keep a record of all correspondence made with residents, noting the date, time and actions attempted

111. If a resident is unwilling or unable to provide access to the registered provider within the timescales, landlords will not be in breach for missing the timescales. However, they will be expected to continue to work as quickly as possible to enter the property to investigate and/or remedy the hazard. Once the registered provider has accessed the property, the proposed timescales will apply. For example, if a landlord enters the property on day 16 to investigate, they will still be expected to provide the written summary within 48 hours, and to have begun work within 7 days (i.e. by day 23) unless they are again unable to obtain access.

Example scenario 1

“Joe” reported damp and mould in his flat to his registered provider via email on 17 August 2023. The landlord quickly acknowledged this report, replying via email and setting a date later in the week to conduct an assessment of the hazard. The date arrived and a contractor was sent out to conduct the assessment, but was unable to gain access to Joe’s home as no one answered the door.

The contractor left Joe a notice through the door stating that an attempt was made to access the property to complete an assessment (noting the date and time) and provided their contact details, giving Joe another opportunity to rearrange a time to conduct the assessment. No further contact was received from Joe to rearrange the assessment, and so the landlord sent a follow up email explaining why it was important for the assessment to be completed and requesting an alternative date be arranged. This correspondence (including the date and time sent) was logged within their internal system.

In the time this correspondence had taken, the landlord had been unable to begin investigations of the hazard within 14 days, breaching the conditions of Awaab’s Law. In this scenario, as this breach was due to difficulties gaining access beyond the landlord’s control, and all correspondence and attempts made to gain access were logged appropriately, the landlord would be unlikely to be found in breach of Awaab’s Law.

Shortage of labour and/or materials

112. In this second example, a landlord experiences barriers to meeting timescales due to difficulties sourcing skilled labour or the required materials.

113. In these circumstances, landlords must keep residents updated on any delays and keep a record of that correspondence. Landlords should also keep a record of their attempts to source workers and/or materials in case they are challenged for failing to meet timescales.

114. In these circumstances, landlords must put in place measures to ensure that the property is safe, and if they are unable to do so within the Awaab’s Law timescales, their responsibilities under proposal 6 will apply. This means that if a landlord cannot begin repair works to a hazard that poses a significant risk to the health or safety of the resident within 7 days, and they are also unable to put in place temporary measures to make the property safe within 7 days, the landlord must offer to arrange for the resident(s) to stay in suitable alternative accommodation until it is safe to return.

115. In the example provided below, the landlord’s responsibilities under proposal 6 would not be triggered, because the landlord has arranged for the hazardous mould spores to be removed.

Example scenario 2

“Lucy” reported that she was experiencing damp and mould in her flat on 1 September 2023. The registered provider acknowledged Lucy’s report on the same day and confirmed a time with Lucy to send out a staff member to investigate this report later that week. A staff member completed an initial investigation of Lucy’s home. In a written summary following this investigation, the staff member confirmed the existence of damp and mould in Lucy’s home but explained that they were unable to find the source of the damp, and so a further investigation by a damp and mould expert would be required.

As a small housing provider, they only have access to staff with damp and mould expertise through an outsourced contract with an external agency. Unfortunately, this external agency informed the housing provider that due to staffing shortages, it would not be possible to send a damp and mould expert to the property for several weeks. In the interim, the housing provider sent an additional contractor to remove hazardous mould spores from the property that week. Additionally, the landlord provided the resident with a written summary explaining the next steps that would need to be taken to address the root cause of the damp (i.e. a further investigation by a damp and mould expert), including projected timescales for this.

As the landlord had begun repair works within 7 calendar days, provided the resident with a written summary explaining the course of actions to be taken (including projected timescales) and the reason for being unable to complete repair works was due to specialist staff shortages beyond their control (and the resident was kept informed of this reasoning throughout), the landlord is unlikely to be found in breach of Awaab’s Law.

Question 22. Do you agree that Awaab’s Law regulations should include provisions for a defence if landlords have taken all reasonable steps to comply with timeframes, but it has not been possible for reasons beyond their control? (Y/N)

Question 23. If you have answered ‘no’ to the questions in this section, please provide an explanation (with evidence where possible) and/or an alternative suggestion (free text)

4. Impact assessment - assessing the costs and benefits of Awaab’s Law

116. Alongside this consultation, we have published an impact assessment to estimate the costs and benefits of the proposals for Awaab’s Law. This can be found at Annex B.

Overview of costs

117. Social landlords already have a responsibility to maintain their homes to meet the Decent Homes Standard (which specifies homes must be free of category 1 hazards), to remedy disrepair, and to maintain homes so that they are fit for human habitation. To be fit for human habitation a home must be safe, healthy and free from things that could cause you or anyone else in your household serious harm. Therefore, the duty to make repairs to reported hazards is not a new burden on landlords, and the costs associated with the investigation and repair timescales are likely to be minimal, as the additional burden is the speed at which repairs need to be responded to, not the repairs themselves.

118. Costs have been monetised for the time taken for providers to familiarise with the regulation changes (PV, £1.6 million) and for the proposed requirement that a written summary of findings is provided to the resident that includes details of any hazard identified and (if applicable) next steps, including an anticipated timeline for repair and a schedule of works. These include preparation and postage costs (PV, £154.5million).

Familiarisation costs

119. These are costs relating to the familiarisation of staff with the new requirements under Awaab’s Law through the reading and understanding of new measures. This cost is transitionary in year one of the policy only.

120. By estimating the number of staff that will be required to read the guidance at both small and large providers, we are able to use average hourly wage costs to estimate familiarisation costs for the sector, at £1.05 million for PRPs and £513,000 for local authorities, meaning an overall impact on the sector of £1.56 million across the appraisal period.

Proposal 1

121. We are unable to estimate the net additional costs of this proposal, however, they are likely to be small, as social landlords are already legally obligated to keep their homes fit for human habitation and to make repairs to the structure and exterior of their homes, as well as to installations such as boilers, pipes and electrics.

122. When social landlords are made aware of repair works needed in a social home, they should already be engaging with residents and conducting some form of investigation in order to assess the works required. This proposal is specifying the timeframe within with landlords need to respond to reported hazards and investigate the cause and works needed.

123. Engagement with the sector through a survey indicated that inspections already often already take place within the 14-day period.

124. Therefore, the costs associated with the 14-calendar day timescale for investigating hazards will be minimal as the additional burden is the speed at which repairs must be investigated, rather than the requirement to investigate in and of itself.

125. Due to the limited number of survey responses, we are seeking further views on this through the consultation.

Proposal 2

126. There are additional costs for social landlords associated with this proposal. These costs will relate to the preparation and sending of written summaries to residents. From engagement with the sector, we understand that the information required for the written summaries are usually held internally, meaning the additional costs will be collating and summarising this information and sending to residents.

127. We have estimated these costs to be an average annual cost of £10.3 million for private registered providers and £5.1 million for local authority registered providers. This is a combined total sector average annual cost of £15.4 million in present value terms. We understand from engagement with the sector that the production and distribution of written summaries could be automated, however, at this stage we have not attempted to estimate the effect of doing so on the preparation costs facing providers.

Proposal 3

128. Like proposal 1, we are unable to estimate the net additional costs of this proposal, however they are likely to be small.  Social landlords are already legally obligated to keep their homes fit for human habitation and to make repairs to the structure and exterior of their homes, as well as to installations such as boilers, pipes and electrics.  This proposal is specifying the timeframe within with landlords need to respond to reported hazards to fulfil their legal repair duties.

Proposal 4

129. We are unable to estimate the net additional costs of this proposal however they are likely to be small.  Social landlords are already required by law to make repairs to homes within a reasonable amount of time under terms implied into tenancy agreements through section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Proposal 5

130. We are unable to estimate the net additional costs of this proposal, however they are likely to be small.  Social landlords are already legally obligated to keep their homes fit for human habitation and to make repairs to the structure and exterior of their homes, as well as to installations such as boilers, pipes and electrics. The proposed timeframe for emergency repairs is in line with social landlords’ existing targets for these types of repairs.

Proposal 6

131. This proposal presents a new legal requirement on social landlords to offer to arrange, and pay for, suitable alternative temporary accommodation for residents where their property requires an emergency repair, and this cannot be actioned quickly enough.

132. Although such a requirement is not currently set out in legislation, we understand from engagement with the sector that social landlords already do this as best practice. Therefore, we do not believe that there will be net additional costs associated with this proposal.

Proposal 7

133. Proposal 7 would not place a new legal requirement on social landlords and therefore does not result in any net additional costs for the sector.

Overview of benefits

134. An expected outcome of Awaab’s Law is social landlords taking faster action to respond to hazards in a home that are significantly impacting a resident’s health and safety. Hazards in the home can have a range of health impacts which can be broadly categorised into physiological harm, psychological harm, infection and accidents. Remedying hazards will reduce the likelihood of these health impacts occurring or deteriorating. Residents’ mental health and wellbeing are likely to be improved by Awaab’s Law requirements because remedying disrepair in a timely fashion means residents feel their complaints are taken seriously, their pride of place is heightened, and they will feel happier to be at home. These health improvements are likely to result in a reduced burden on the NHS, with fewer housing relating issues resulting in residents requiring medical attention. There are also likely to be wider societal benefits of reducing health and safety hazards in homes, such as reduced instances of lost productivity due to ill health.

135. It has not been possible to provide a headline estimate of monetised benefits of this policy due to the absence of more specific data around the nature of hazards that will be rectified. However, using evidence on the health, wellbeing and productivity benefits of remediating poor quality housing, switching values have been calculated for key benefits to illustrate the level required for the policy to achieve a present value net benefit of 0. A switching value has been estimated for benefits arising from increasing the speed of repairs. This is compiled of fiscal savings to the NHS (from reducing the number of injuries resulting from category 1 hazards), the resulting productivity gains to the wider society of improved health, and improved tenant satisfaction with how landlords repair and maintain their homes.

136. We estimate that just 6% of repairs would need to remediate category 1 hazards (when accounting for the 3 types of benefits outlined above) for the policy to achieve a PV net benefit of 0. This proportion appears feasible, meaning it is possible that these benefits alone will offset the identified costs of the policy, without accounting for further non-monetisable benefits identified. We have also estimated a switching value for the number of fatal accidents at home that would need to be avoided to achieve this (10 per year), as Awaab’s Law is designed to ensure such cases do not result from long-term disrepair.

Assumptions

137. We will publish a final impact assessment ahead of secondary legislation coming into force and are seeking evidence on the costs and impacts of our proposals through consultation. At this stage, impacts have been monetised as far as possible against the policy proposals.  In assessing the costs of the proposals for Awaab’s Law, we have faced significant data challenges.

138. Data is available on the number of category 1 and 2 hazards in social homes and we have been provided with data on volumes of repairs from some social landlords, however most social landlords only collect data on the volume of emergency and non-emergency (that is routine) repairs.

139. The data on existing practice for these types of repairs is limited. Social landlords usually set targets for emergency and routine repairs, and some hold data on their record of meeting these, however the threshold for Awaab’s Law lies somewhere in between emergency and routine repairs, and relates to individual circumstances (i.e. health and safety risks to individuals) which poses a significant data challenge.

140. The requirements under Awaab’s Law will not apply only to category 1 hazards, nor will it apply only to emergency repairs (except for proposal 6 which relates to decanting in emergency circumstances). Likewise, Awaab’s Law will not apply to all category 2 hazards, nor will it apply to all non-emergency (i.e. routine) repairs. Instead, it will apply in circumstances where a hazard in a social home (regardless of how that hazard would be categorised through an HHSRS assessment) presents a significant risk to the health or safety of the resident in the home.

141. Data on the volume of hazards in social homes that present a significant risk to residents’ health or safety, and therefore in scope of Awaab’s Law as explained above, is not available. We have therefore had to estimate the proportion of hazards that would present a significant risk. As a proxy, we have used the English Housing Survey (EHS) to estimate that 40% of faults identified in the social rented sector are classified as urgent.[footnote 30] This has been done using the physical inspection element of the EHS from 2018/19, the most recent available wave to include a full physical inspection, due to covid-19. The survey considers faults for the following components: chimneys, damp, doors, dormers, roof covering, roof features, roof structure, wall finish, wall structure and windows.

142. Data is also not available on the volume of repairs which remediate category 1 hazards, which is the basis for monetisable benefits such as NHS savings and increased tenant satisfaction. As such, we have calculated a switching value, estimating the proportion of repairs that include remediating a category 1 hazard to result in an overall present value net benefit of 0.

143. It has not been possible to forecast the number of emergency repair circumstances that will result in landlords having to offer to provide suitable alternative temporary accommodation, however the government’s understanding from engagement with the sector is that providers will already offer to provide suitable alternative temporary accommodation in emergency circumstances.

144. We have made use of published data (for example the EHS) and data provided to us by the sector via surveys, however the sample sizes for data collection via surveys has been small.

Question 24. Do you agree with the assessment that proposals 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 will create small net additional costs to the sector? (Y/N)

Question 25. If not, please can you provide additional information? (Free text)

Question 26. Do you agree with the assessment of the net additional costs of proposal 2? (Y/N)

Question 27. If not, please can you provide additional information? (Free text)

Question 28. Do you agree with the assumptions we have made to reach these estimates? (Y/N)

Question 29. If not, please can you provide additional information? (Free text)

About this consultation

This consultation document and consultation process have been planned to adhere to the consultation principles issued by the Cabinet Office.

Representative groups are asked to give a summary of the people and organisations they represent, and where relevant who else they have consulted in reaching their conclusions when they respond.

Information provided in response to this consultation may be published or disclosed in accordance with the access to information regimes (these are primarily the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and UK data protection legislation.  In certain circumstances this may therefore include personal data when required by law.

If you want the information that you provide to be treated as confidential, please be aware that, as a public authority, the department is bound by the information access regimes and may therefore be obliged to disclose all or some of the information you provide. In view of this it would be helpful if you could explain to us why you regard the information you have provided as confidential. If we receive a request for disclosure of the information we will take full account of your explanation, but we cannot give an assurance that confidentiality can be maintained in all circumstances. An automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will not, of itself, be regarded as binding on the Department.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will at all times process your personal data in accordance with UK data protection legislation and in the majority of circumstances this will mean that your personal data will not be disclosed to third parties. A full privacy notice is included below.

Individual responses will not be acknowledged unless specifically requested.

Your opinions are valuable to us. Thank you for taking the time to read this document and respond.

Are you satisfied that this consultation has followed the consultation principles?  If not or you have any other observations about how we can improve the process please contact us via the complaints procedure.

Personal data

The following is to explain your rights and give you the information you are  entitled to under UK data protection legislation.

Note that this section only refers to personal data (your name, contact details and any other information that relates to you or another identified or identifiable individual personally) not the content otherwise of your response to the consultation.

1. The identity of the data controller and contact details of our Data Protection Officer    

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is the data controller. The Data Protection Officer can be contacted at dataprotection@levellingup.gov.uk or by writing to the following address:

Data Protection Officer
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF    

2. Why we are collecting your personal data  

Your personal data is being collected as an essential part of the consultation process, so that we can contact you regarding your response and for statistical purposes. We may also use it to contact you about related matters.

We will collect your IP address if you complete a consultation online. We may use this to ensure that each person only completes a survey once. We will not use this data for any other purpose.

Sensitive types of personal data

Please do not share special category personal data or criminal offence data if we have not asked for this unless absolutely necessary for the purposes of your consultation response. By ‘special category personal data’, we mean information about a living individual’s:

  • race
  • ethnic origin
  • political opinions
  • religious or philosophical beliefs
  • trade union membership
  • genetics
  • biometrics 
  • health (including disability-related information)
  • sex life; or
  • sexual orientation.

By ‘criminal offence data’, we mean information relating to a living individual’s criminal convictions or offences or related security measures.

The collection of your personal data is lawful under article 6(1)(e) of the UK General Data Protection Regulation as it is necessary for the performance by DLUHC of a task in the public interest/in the exercise of official authority vested in the data controller.  Section 8(d) of the Data Protection Act 2018 states that this will include processing of personal data that is necessary for the exercise of a function of the Crown, a Minister of the Crown or a government department i.e. in this case a consultation.

Where necessary for the purposes of this consultation, our lawful basis for the processing of any special category personal data or ‘criminal offence’ data (terms explained under ‘Sensitive Types of Data’) which you submit in response to this consultation is as follows. The relevant lawful basis for the processing of special category personal data is Article 9(2)(g) UK GDPR (‘substantial public interest’), and Schedule 1 paragraph 6 of the Data Protection Act 2018 (‘statutory etc and government purposes’). The relevant lawful basis in relation to personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences data is likewise provided by Schedule 1 paragraph 6 of the Data Protection Act 2018.

4. With whom we will be sharing your personal data

DLUHC may appoint a ‘data processor’, acting on behalf of the Department and under our instruction, to help analyse the responses to this consultation.  Where we do we will ensure that the processing of your personal data remains in strict accordance with the requirements of the data protection legislation.

5. For how long we will keep your personal data, or criteria used to determine the retention period.

Your personal data will be held for 2 years from the closure of the consultation, unless we identify that its continued retention is unnecessary before that point.

6. Your rights, for example, access, rectification, restriction, objection

The data we are collecting is your personal data, and you have considerable say over what happens to it. You have the right:

a. to see what data we have about you

b. to ask us to stop using your data, but keep it on record

c. to ask to have your data corrected if it is incorrect or incomplete

d. to object to our use of your personal data in certain circumstances

e. to lodge a complaint with the independent Information Commissioner (ICO) if you think we are not handling your data fairly or in accordance with the law.  You can contact the ICO at https://ico.org.uk/, or telephone 0303 123 1113.

Please contact us at the following address if you wish to exercise the rights listed above, except the right to lodge a complaint with the ICO: dataprotection@levellingup.gov.uk or

Knowledge and Information Access Team
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

7. Your personal data will not be sent overseas.

8. Your personal data will not be used for any automated decision making.

9. Your personal data will be stored in a secure government IT system.

We use a third-party system, Citizen Space, to collect consultation responses. In the first instance your personal data will be stored on their secure UK-based server. Your personal data will be transferred to our secure government IT system as soon as possible, and it will be stored there for 2 years before it is deleted.

Annex A: Impact assessment

Public sector equality duty: Equality analysis for Awaab’s Law

Awaab’s Law consultation stage impact assessment

Annex B: Examples of hazards (emergency, Awaab’s Law, and routine)

1. Damp and mould

1.1. Example of damp and mould warranting emergency repairs

A resident has reported that their property is affected by extensive wide-spread damp and mould. They have sent photos of the property to the landlord.

The living room has both rising and penetrating damp with visible tide marks. The kitchen has condensation damp surrounding the wall with the window and visible mould growth as well as mould spots throughout the walls and on the ceiling. The exterior of the property shows some cracking on the back wall with the kitchen, the pattern of dampness is consistent with the cracking of the exterior wall. The second bedroom of the property has visible penetrating damp and mould growth linked to the cracked exterior wall.

The property is poorly ventilated with ill-fitting and poorly installed double-glazed windows without trickle vents. The property has central heating with radiators in every room, but they do not have thermostatic valves meaning that the property cannot be effectively heated. A child with asthma lives in the property and their parents have reported that they are struggling to breath. The lack of extract ventilation, inadequate insulation, structural damage and an inefficient heating system is exacerbating the condensation, dampness and mould growth in the affected rooms.

As there is a significant level of mould growth on all walls of the property including in a risk room, and a vulnerable individual is struggling to breath, this property would warrant emergency repairs.  It is worth noting that because dampness and mould accumulates over time (unlike other emergency hazards that can materialise suddenly) the Government expects that damp and mould would never be allowed to deteriorate to this level. Unfortunately, as we know from the tragic death of Awaab Ishak, some social properties do have widespread and dangerous levels of damp.

1.2 Example of damp and mould that pose significant risk to residents

A resident has reported damp and mould in their property. The registered provider is required to investigate within 14 days. The investigation finds that the property has damp and mould in two rooms. The bathroom is experiencing extensive mould growth across the walls and ceiling caused by condensation as a result of poor ventilation and lack of effective heating.

There is damp plaster and mould growth to the main walls of the smallest third bedroom and the walls of the bedroom have no insulation meaning that the condensation occurs from daily activities encouraging damp and mould growth.

The occupant of the smallest bedroom is taking medications that suppress their immune system and they have reported they are catching colds more frequently and feeling generally unwell.

As there is a significant level of mould growth on all walls of the property, especially in a risk room, and given that the poor thermal insulation combined with inefficient electric heating and lack of a working mechanical extractor fan in the bathroom have contributed to extensive dampness and mould growth to the bathroom and third bedroom this would not require emergency repairs but would trigger the Awaab’s Law requirement to begin repair works within 7 calendar days. 

1.3 Example of damp and mould that would not trigger Awaab’s Law but would require routine repairs

A resident has complained that there are small patches of mould growth above the radiators underneath the window of both bedrooms, as well as on the ceiling. There are also small patches of mould growth around the windows of both the kitchen and bathroom.

The resident has reported the mould and told their registered provider they are unhappy because it is unsightly and unpleasant to live with. They have not reported any impact on their health, but they want this to be addressed promptly. 

In this instance, the 14-day time limit for the registered provider to investigate would apply.

However, as the landlord has no reason to believe the damp and mould growth is significantly impacting on the residents’ health, this would not trigger the Awaab’s Law requirement to begin repair work within 7 calendar days.

The registered provider should remedy the damp and mould within their timeframe for routine repairs and should consider interim intervention to remove the mould spores. Mould can have a cumulative impact on health and may worsen over time if the cause of the damp is not addressed.   

2. Other HHSRS hazards

2.1 Examples of hazards requiring emergency repairs

2.1(a) Example of a hazard requiring emergency repairs (entry by intruders)

A social resident has reported that the lock on their front door is broken, and their property is not able to be secured. This poses an urgent risk to the resident’s belongings and personal safety. Residents will be unable to leave their property until the repair is made, which may prevent them from attending work and completing everyday tasks, and they don’t feel safe to sleep in the property overnight as they live alone. Therefore, this warrants an emergency repair as it requires an urgent response for the property to made be secure, and in turn ensure the residents’ safety.

If for any reason the registered provider  could not fix the broken external door that day (and the property would therefore be left insecure) this could trigger the requirement to offer temporary suitable alternative accommodation until the property can be made safe.

2.1(b) Example of hazard requiring emergency repairs (water supply)

A resident has reported a total loss of water supply in their property that they believe to be due to faulty pipes.

This would constitute an emergency repair as water supply is essential for daily activities such as washing, preparation of food and for drinking supply. Without water supply residents will not be able to maintain personal hygiene or have access to essential things such as drinking water. As these are essential to daily life, these circumstances should therefore be treated as an emergency that should be remedied as quickly as possible.

If for any reason the registered provider is unable to repair the water supply that day, and the property cannot be made safe in another way (for example, by providing access to bottled water for drinking and hygiene purposes) this could trigger the requirement to offer temporary suitable alternative accommodation until the property can be made safe.

2.2 Examples of hazards posing a significant risk to residents

2.2(a) Example of hazard posing a significant risk to residents(Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse)

A social housing resident has reported seeing mice or rats in their property that they believe are entering the property from the external wall in their kitchen. The resident has been avoiding using their kitchen, is not keeping open food items out of fear of exasperating the problem and is suffering high levels of anxiety.

This is a domestic hygiene, pests, and refuge hazard.  Rodents can carry harmful diseases which can pose a significant health risk to residents. For example, exposure to rats can directly lead to the spreading of Hantavirus, Haemorrhagic Fever, Lassa Fever, Leptospirosis and Monkeypox, among other diseases.

Because the hazard poses a significant risk to the residents’ health or safety and is causing them significant distress, the registered provider would be expected to meet the Awaab’s Law timescales for investigation and repairs.

2.2(b) Example of hazard posing a significant risk to residents (entry by intruders)

A resident has reported that one of their external windows is faulty, and whilst it can be secured for the moment, they suspect the handle will snap off and prevent them from being able to lock the window.

This is an entry by intruders hazard. Although this wouldn’t constitute an emergency repair, there is a risk that this could pose a significant impact upon a resident’s health and safety, and therefore the Awaab’s Law timescales would apply.

In this instance, a resident fears that this faulty window could fully break imminently, therefore posing an imminent threat to a residents’ safety. This does not constitute an emergency situation because the window can be secured at present. However, as it is likely that this could break imminently, an imminent threat to residents’ safety is therefore posed, and so Awaab’s Law should be utilised to address this, to mitigate any potential risk to residents.

2.3 Examples of hazards that would not trigger Awaab’s Law but would require routine repairs

2.3(a) Example of hazard that would not trigger Awaab’s Law but would require routine repairs (water supply)

A resident has reported that the tap in their bathroom is not working. Their shower and kitchen sink continue to work. This is a water supply hazard, however this would not pose a significant risk to a residents’ health and safety, because there are alternative taps and sources of water the resident can utilise in the interim until the other tap is fixed.

Therefore, in this instance Awaab’s Law would not need to be triggered and this repair could be addressed routinely.

2.3(b) Example of hazard that would not trigger Awaab’s Law but would require routine repairs (Falling on stairs)

A resident has reported that the handrail on the left-hand side of the staircase in their property is falling off the wall and is insecure. This is a falling on the stairs hazard.

The resident is not vulnerable (I.e. they do not have any mobility issues) and they are able to continue to use the stairs carefully, making use of the handrail on the right hand side. However, they are not happy because the broken handrail is unsightly, and they worry that they or a guest may suffer an accident.

This does not pose a significant risk to the resident’s health or safety, because they can make use of the second handrail, and therefore the timescales under Awaab’s Law would not apply. However the registered provider should still address this as a routine repair.

Annex C: Glossary

Alternative suitable accommodation: What is considered suitable will depend on the residents’ circumstances. Alternative suitable accommodation should be safe, located near residents’ existing homes, and provide adequate space for the household that has been decanted.

Awaab’s Law campaign: Campaign for legislative change led by the Ishak family with support from Shelter and the Manchester Evening News following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak due to prolonged exposure to damp and mould in his home.

BRE: The Building Research Establishment (BRE) is an independent research organisation aiming to develop science-led solutions to built environment challenges.

Category 1 Hazard: category 1 hazards are those where the most serious harm outcome is identified, for example, death, permanent paralysis, permanent loss of consciousness, loss of a limb or serious fracture.

Category 2 Hazard: If a hazard is less serious or less urgent, this is known as a category 2 hazard.

Consumer standards: Standards set by the Regulator for Social Housing under powers in s. 193 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008. The Regulator may take action against providers if these standards are breached. These standards have recently been reviewed and consulted on by the Regulator for Social Housing.

Decant: The removal and temporary re-housing of residents from their home.

Decent Homes Standard: The system by which the minimum standard of physical standard for the Social Rented Sector (SRS) is measured. The Decent Homes Standard is currently being reviewed by the Government, and will apply to the private rented sector.

Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care: NHS England’s delivery plan for recovering access to primary care was published May 2023. The plan outlines the government’s commitment to reduce requests on GPs to verify medical evidence. Government will be exploring opportunities to improve efficiencies for both GPs and local authorities regarding the medical needs of people wishing to access social housing, such as updating guidance to local authorities and housing associations on when it is appropriate to seek medical advice.

Emergency repair: Emergency repairs are repairs that, if not actioned quickly or immediately, present an urgent danger to residents.  We consider that hazards warranting emergency repairs are those that present a significant and imminent risk of harm.

Fit for human habitation: To be ‘fit for human habitation’, a home must be safe, healthy and free from things that could cause anyone in the household serious harm.

Hazard: As set out in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) Operating Guidance, a hazard is any risk of harm to the health or safety of an actual occupier of accommodation that arises from a deficiency in the dwelling. This includes hazards at both the category 1 and category 2 levels.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS): A risk-based evaluation tool to help local authorities identify and protect against potential risks and hazards to health and safety from any deficiencies identified in dwellings.

Housing Ombudsman: The Housing Ombudsman is an executive non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom, sponsored by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The Housing Ombudsman Service looks at complaints about registered providers of social housing, for example housing associations, and other landlords, managers and agents. The service is free, independent and impartial. The Ombudsman can also look at complaints about the handling of housing issues by local councils.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE): The independent regulator for work-related health, safety and welfare, and for research into occupational risks.

Implied term: A contractual term that has not been expressly agreed between the parties, but has been implied into the contract either by common law or by statute. Awaab’s Law will imply into social housing tenancy agreements a term that requires landlords to comply with new requirements (which will be set out in regulations).

Investigation: Action undertaken to sufficiently determine whether there is a hazard within a residents’ home, and whether that hazard poses a risk to a residents’ health or safety.

Joint guidance: Guidance published collaboratively between different departments or external bodies. In our consultation, ‘joint guidance’ refers specifically to the DHSC and DLUHC guidance on damp and mould, titled ‘Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home’, that followed the coroner’s report investigating Awaab Ishak’s death.

Legal aid: Publicly funded legal advice, mediation or representation in court.

Manchester Evening News (MEN): Regional daily newspaper covering Greater Manchester in North West England. MEN campaigned for “Awaab’s Law” with the Ishak family and Shelter.

Mediation: Intervention in a dispute in order to resolve it.

Pre-action protocol: Explains the conduct and steps to be taken in relation to a claim, before court proceedings are issued.

Private Registered Provider (PRPs): PRPs are providers of social housing in England that are registered with the Regulator of Social Housing and are not local authorities.

Registered providers (of social housing): Landlords registered with the Regulator of Social Housing. They may be local authorities or private registered providers of social housing. Also referred to as ‘social landlords’ in this consultation.

Regulation 28 Report on preventing future deaths: Under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, this Regulation allows a coroner to issue a report to an individual, organisations, local authorities or government departments (and their agencies) where the coroner believes that action should be taken to prevent further deaths. In November 2022 the Senior Coroner for Manchester North published a Regulation 28 Report on the death of Awaab Ishak.

Regulator of Social Housing: The Regulator of Social Housing sets consumer and economic standards for social housing providers to regulate the delivery of their service, including local authorities and housing associations. It is a stand-alone non departmental public body of government.

Repair works: Action taken to address and eradicate hazards identified within a home.

Risk to health or safety: Risk is the likelihood that a person may be harmed or suffer adverse health effects if exposed to a hazard.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH): Resident and employee co-owned housing society, with 12,000 homes throughout Rochdale. This was Housing Association the Ishak family rented their social home from.

Routine repair: When an investigation identifies a hazard, but does not find that the hazard poses a significant risk to a resident’s health and safety, this will be considered a ‘routine repair’ for which the landlord should provide a written summary that explains why the hazard is not deemed in scope of Awaab’s Law, and sets out proposed next steps for resolving it. Routine repairs usually apply to defects causing some inconvenience, but where immediate repair isn’t essential.

Self-referral: In our consultation, self-referral refers to when social housing providers refer themselves to the Regulator for Social Housing. Social landlords are expected to self-refer to the Regulator of Social Housing if they are in breach of their statutory duties. 

Senior Coroner for Manchester North: Judicial office holder primarily responsible for the provision of local coroner services in Manchester North.

Shelter: Charity focussed on funding research and campaigns in relation to housing justice. Led the campaign for Awaab’s Law with the Manchester Evening News.

Significant risk of harm: The level of risk that a hazard presents will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, making ‘significant risk of harm’ a subjective term. Landlords are not required to conduct an Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment to determine the level of hazard. However, landlords may wish to review the HHSRS Operating Guidance, that offers examples of harm outcomes ranging from the most extreme (class i) to those that are significant enough to warrant medical attention (class iv).[footnote 31]

Social Housing White Paper: The Charter for Social Housing Residents: Social Housing White Paper was published in 2020. It set out the actions the Ggovernment will take to ensure that residents in social housing are safe, are listened to, live in good quality homes, and have access to redress when things go wrong.

Social landlord: A local authority landlord or private registered provider of social housing (such as a housing association).

Social resident: In this consultation, social resident or ‘resident’ refers to someone who rents their home from a social landlord.

Temporary repair works: Action undertaken to address a hazard in the interim, that does not constitute a longer-term, permanent solution to that hazard.

The Secure Tenants of Local Housing Authorities (Right to Repair) Regulations 1994: Regulations giving the right to residents to have small emergency or urgent repairs carried out quickly and to receive payment if we fail to meet our obligations on the second occasion.


  1. EHS headline report 2021-22, housing stock annex table 2.3: Non-decent homes, by tenure, 2006-2021

  2. EHS headline report 2021-22, housing stock annex table 2.6: Damp problems, by tenure, 2021

  3. Data is available in EHS headline report, annex table 2.4: HHSRS Category 1 Hazards, by tenure, 2008-2021, alongside updated 2021 figure for the SRS

  4. English Housing Survey 2021 to 2022: headline report

  5. Awaab’s Law does not affect licence agreements. 

  6. EHS headline report 2021-22, housing stock annex table 2.3: Non-decent homes, by tenure, 2006-2021

  7. Awaab Ishak - Prevention of future deaths report

  8. Category 1 hazards are those which, broadly speaking, will result in the need for medical attention over the following 12 month period. This is assessed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). 

  9. BRE: The cost of poor housing in England by tenure 2023 (PDF, 1,26 MB). 

  10. English Housing Survey 2021 to 2022: headline report

  11. English Housing Survey 2021 to 2022: headline report

  12. According to BRE, dampness and mould hazards in homes in England cost the NHS £38 million annually and would cost a total of £269 million to mitigate). Helen Garrett, Molly Mackay, Simon Nicol, Justine Piddington, Mike Roys, BRE: The cost of poor housing in England: 2021 Briefing Paper, 2021 (PDF, 1,28 MB). 

  13. Health inequalities: cold or damp homes, House of Commons library, 2023. 

  14. Damp and mould in social housing - learning the lessons

  15. One year on follow up report: Spotlight on damp and mould - it’s not lifestyle (PDF, 272 KB), Housing Ombudsman Service 2023. 

  16. More information on investigation outcomes can be found at: Guidance on outcomes (PDF, 256 KB). 

  17. See Spotlight on: Damp and mould It’s not lifestyle (PDF, 662 KB), October 2021 and Putting safety first, CiH Scotland, 2023. 

  18. Joanne Kearsley, Senior Coroner for Manchester North, November 16 2022, Awaab Ishak: Prevention of future deaths report

  19. The charter for social housing residents: social housing white paper

  20. BRE: The cost of poor housing in England by tenure 2023 (PDF, 1,26 MB). 

  21. Awaab Ishak - Prevention of future deaths report

  22. Severe maladministration report, Housing Ombudsman, 16 February 2023; Severe maladministration report , Housing Ombudsman, 14 February 2023; Severe maladministration report, Housing Ombudsman, 9 February 2023

  23. Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023, Originated in the Housing of Lords, Session 2022-23. 

  24. Summary report: outcomes and next steps for the review of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

  25. Ministry of Justice, Pre-Action protocol for Housing Condition Claims Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Conditions Claims (England) - Civil Procedure Rules

  26. The 29 hazards are set out in Schedule 1 of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005

  27. Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS): review outcomes and next steps

  28. Housing Ombudsman Spotlight report on damp and mould (PDF, 662 KB). 

  29. Housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) operating guidance: housing inspections and assessment of hazards

  30. English Housing Survey 2018 to 2019: headline report

  31. Housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) operating guidance: housing inspections and assessment of hazards