In recent months, the national press has been full of the tragic story of Awaab Ishak, a two year old who died in England as a result of exposure to mould in his family home. An inquest confirming that young Awaab died in December 2020 after being exposed damp and mould for a prolonged period, despite multiple complaints made by his family to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH).
The family moved to the flat in 2016, before Awaab was born, and complaints were made about damp as early as 2017. RBH simply advised the family to paint over that and conditions continued to deteriorate. The coroner found there was a lack of proactive response to the family’s complaints and Awaab developed a severe respiratory condition as a result.
Unfortunately this was not an isolated case and the same issues are arising in hundreds of properties across the UK, including Scotland. I have acted, and continue to act for, several clients who describe horrific living conditions, with exposure to damp and mould in properties of various Councils and Housing Associations throughout the country. The circumstances of these cases, have been depressingly familiar to those of the Ishak family. Complaints have been made and ignored, or ineffective quick fix solutions offered. Clients have provided photographs highlighting grim living conditions, with mould often having spread from the building itself to their own possessions such as bedding and clothes.
Mould is caused by damp conditions, such as condensation, and it can be extremely harmful as particles can be released into the air. Some people are more sensitive to it than others, particularly those who are atopic and already suffer from asthma, allergies or eczema. Those with weak immune systems, the elderly and children are also at greater risk.
Exposure to mould can lead to exacerbation of pre-existing lung and skin diseases, or can cause new conditions to occur. Immediate, short term, symptoms of exposure can include eye irritation, runny nose, sneezing and headache. There is also likely to be a psychiatric impact from living in such poor conditions. It is therefore extremely important that properties are properly ventilated, to reduce the risk of mould growing.
In rented properties, landlords have a duty to ensure homes are safe, suitable and fit for human habitation but it is clear that all too many are failing on this. Complaints made by tenants regarding mould and damp ought to be investigated immediately. If tenants have suffered injury as a result of such failures by landlords, they could be entitled to compensation Talk to Thompsons.
Blog by Claire Campbell, Partner