Skip to main content

Government must act now to protect tenants from ‘catastrophic’ impact of poor housing on health, warn MPs

19 January 2024

Urgent action is needed by government to protect tenants who live in poor quality homes that can have a catastrophic impact on their health.

The report published by the Health and Social Care Committee today calls on the government to proceed without delay in the steps needed to update the Decent Homes Standard for social housing tenants and set out a timetable for its extension to cover the private rented sector.

More than three years after the Government first committed to review and then extend the Decent Homes Standard to the private rented sector, no legal minimum quality standard exists to protect tenants in private rentals. The Decent Homes Standard has not been updated since 2006.

MPs conclude the less well-off and those living in less well-off neighbourhoods are much more likely to develop life-limiting health conditions and to die prematurely from the effects of those conditions. The most serious housing hazards include fire and electrical risks, excess cold, excess heat, damp and mould, and air pollution. In 2020, two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from a respiratory condition caused by mould in a housing association property.

A determined focus on developing "healthy places" that can prevent ill-health for those most at risk is vital to ease pressures on the NHS and build a sustainable service for future generations, says the committee.

The Healthy places report is the second to be published by the committee in its major inquiry into preventing ill-health with ten workstreams being examined.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee Steve Brine MP said:

“Poor quality homes can have a catastrophic impact on the health of the those who live in them. The death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from a respiratory condition caused by mould in his home should leave Ministers in no doubt that tenants in both the social and private rented sectors deserve greater protection by law.

The government has dragged its feet on updating the Decent Homes Standard for the social rented sector and in extending it to cover the private rented sector. We’re calling on the government to set out its timetable for doing so without delay.

Our report welcomes the government’s plan to introduce Awaab’s law for tenants in the social sector. We urge swift action on the outcome of the consultation, but the government must also consider safeguards for tenants in the private sector where risks of damp and mould can pose an immediate danger to health.

Creating healthy places to live to prevent ill-health among the population must take priority for Ministers. Not only will that reduce pressures on the NHS but will save vast sums spent each year on treating people with preventable illness.”

Further information

Image: CCO-pexels