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Awaab’s Law: Proposals for Urgent Repairs and Greater Accountability in Social Housing

What is Changing?

In a significant move towards enhancing living conditions for social housing residents, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) has launched a consultation proposing stringent legal requirements under Awaab’s Law. This law, named after two-year-old Awaab Ishak, seeks to address issues surrounding emergency repairs within the social housing sector. Under the proposed legislation, social landlords would be obligated to investigate hazards within 14 days, commence repairs within seven days of identification, and complete emergency repairs deemed as “significant and imminent risk of harm” within a swift 24-hour timeframe.

Background and Awaab’s Law

Awaab’s Law comes in the wake of the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who suffered the consequences of prolonged exposure to mould in a Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) flat. Despite pleas from Awaab’s family, RBH failed to take timely and appropriate action to rectify the issues. Awaab’s Law, an amendment to the Social Housing (Regulation) Act enacted in 2023, is designed to prevent such tragedies by enforcing stricter timelines for addressing hazards and emergency repairs within the social housing sector.

The Proposed Framework

The consultation outlines a comprehensive framework, requiring social landlords to investigate hazards within 14 days of identification. Following identification, repairs must commence within seven days, with emergency repairs, defined as presenting a “significant and imminent risk of harm” (including gas leaks, broken boilers, and electrical hazards), to be completed within a swift 24-hour timeframe. This proposed framework aims to ensure that potential risks are swiftly addressed, preventing harm and safeguarding residents’ well-being.

Challenges and Considerations

While the proposed reforms under Awaab’s Law are deemed necessary to elevate housing standards, questions linger about their deliverability in the face of financial constraints and competing pressures. With local authorities stretched thin, reports suggest that one in five English councils is at risk of bankruptcy. Addressing the urgency of emergency repairs might necessitate a significant allocation of resources to preventive maintenance, thereby avoiding life-threatening problems in the first place.

Preventing Tragedies

Awaab’s Law and the associated proposals underscore the commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of social housing residents. By introducing stringent timelines for hazard identification and repair, the government aims to address issues proactively and prevent tragedies. The responses from combined Authorities further indicate a collective effort to elevate housing standards. As the social housing sector grapples with the challenges of implementation, the ultimate goal remains to create safer, healthier living environments for all residents.