UK

New legislation ‘should mean nobody’s life is put at risk’ in social housing

Grenfell United has been hailed for its tireless campaigning to strengthen social housing regulations (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Grenfell United has been hailed for its tireless campaigning to strengthen social housing regulations (Dominic Lipinski/PA) Grenfell United has been hailed for its tireless campaigning to strengthen social housing regulations (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

New rules aimed at improving the quality of social housing and described as the most significant reform of the sector in more than a decade have become law.

The long-awaited passing of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act is a “historic moment for the nearly nine million people who live in social homes in England”, housing charity Shelter said.

It includes Awaab’s law, which requires landlords to fix reported hazards in social housing, such as mould, in a “timely fashion” or rehouse tenants in safe accommodation.

It followed the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home.

The new regulations also include a requirement for social housing managers to have professional qualifications  – a measure which had been called for by Tory former prime minister Theresa May and campaign group Grenfell United.

The group of bereaved and survivors, formed after the deadly west London tower block fire in 2017 which killed 72 people, has been hailed for its “tireless campaigning” to improve how social housing tenants are treated.

Other measures give the social housing watchdog more teeth, including new powers to issue unlimited fines to landlords who fail to meet standards.

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

“Six long years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, this legislation is the result of tireless campaigning by Grenfell United and other activists to improve the way social tenants are treated.

“The landmark legislation means social landlords must be professionally qualified and can be properly held to account for the homes they let out. The Act should mark a step change in ensuring tenants have homes which are fit to live in, and that nobody’s life is put at risk, as has happened too many times before, from Grenfell to the tragic death of Awaab Ishak.

“As we look to the future, it is important to remember that stronger regulation alone cannot fix this country’s serious housing problems.

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