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Awaab Ishak’s heart-breaking death is a stark reminder that housing standards need urgently addressing


3 min read

I was deeply saddened by the news of Awaab Ishak’s death recently, caused by extended exposure to mould in his home.

The tragic part of this story is that the two year old’s death could have been avoided had it not been for the landlord’s neglect and ignorance. My most sincere sympathies are with the family and friends of Awaab at this truly distressing time.

That housing bosses are paying themselves six figure salaries each year whilst subjecting tenants to horrific conditions is barbaric behaviour

Since I was elected to Parliament back in 2010, housing has been a topic I have retained a passionate interest. When assessing the wider housing market, sadly, cases of inadequate accommodation quality and a failure of organisations to act accordingly is far too common. We are seeing companies put profit ahead of people time and time again, compromising health and in this awful case, a little boy’s life. Rochdale Borough Housing, the body in charge of Awaab’s home, received over 100 complaints of mould in their properties throughout the last year alone. I am sure we can all agree that this is completely unacceptable and indolent landlords need to drastically improve their services or need to be forced out of the sector.

I am pleased that the government have committed a further £13.5m to help councils clamp down on such rogue landlords. This is strengthened by the measures in my Private Members Bill, the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill that is currently going through Parliament. These measures will ensure that supported housing providers provide housing which must comply with a set of national standards as set out by the Secretary of State. Any non-complying bodies will not be able to operate.

It was encouraging to hear the Housing Secretary Michael Gove make clear that the anticipated Social Housing Regulation Bill will bring about a scrupulous new regime, efficiently holding inadequate practice by landlords to account. I hope that the legislation introduced will bring about a timeframe with which landlords must act upon complaints by tenants. If such timeframes are not adhered to, or if tenants believe they are victim to malpractice, the Housing Ombudsman should be advertised as an alternative route to raise such issues and promote hasty action.

Further, I believe that tenants should be made aware of their rights. In many cases, tenants believe they have no position in demanding reparations out of sheer fear they will lose the property. This cannot remain the case. At the end of the day, tenants are paying for a service, thus should expect a service in return, not neglect or poor standards.

Whilst I have no issue with people earning large salaries, they must earn such wages by carrying out duties, otherwise they go unjustified. The public are rightly outraged that housing bosses are paying themselves six figure salaries each year whilst subjecting tenants to horrific conditions is barbaric behaviour that needs to be addressed. It is only right that Gareth Swarbrick of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing has been sacked following his neglect for Awaab’s family home. I hope that this serves as a lesson to all other housing providers that they will be held to account for any inappropriate conduct taking place on their watch.

I am sure that the heart-breaking death of Awaab will serve as a stark reminder that housing standards need addressing urgently. I trust the government’s commitment to improving such standards and welcome the Secretary of State’s comments on this matter.

I hope that Awaab’s legacy will ensure that this is an isolated case and that we are firm that no other lives are lost to this abhorrent lack of judgement from Rochdale Borough Housing.


Bob Blackman is the Conservative MP for Harrow East.

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