COUNCIL home tenants in Mid Devon are to get a swift response if they report damp and mould problems.

The district council’s plans to tackle the issue before it spirals out of control comes following new legislation to ensure social housing providers keep their properties and estates safe and clean.

Awaab’s Law is named after two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died in 2020 from prolonged exposure to mould in his family’s home in Rochdale.

The legislation means social housing landlords must fix damp and mould issues to strict deadlines or rehouse tenants in safe accommodation.

Mid Devon District Council’s homes policy development group was told the council is a very proactive landlord, but the new laws set out “a clear and transparent framework” to make sure tenants are listened to and the council responds quickly.

Children, the elderly and vulnerable, and people with existing health problems are at risk from damp and mould exposure.

Tenants will now get a second visit six weeks after problems are reported and treated. If damp and mould reappear, further intervention will be pursued.

Council officers explained that in some instances they had not got to the bottom of the problem and it is a complex issue where diagnosis is not always possible at first sight. Follow-up visits lacked detail when improvement works had taken place.

They reported that despite some of its housing stock being more than 100 years-old, only five per cent at any one time were reported as having damp, with 14 per cent of homes affected over a two-year period.

Corporate manager for public health, regulation and housing at MDDC, Simon Newcombe, said: “This means 86 per cent of our stock is not reported as having any damp or mould which is good compared with some other main housing providers.”

But a report said there needs to be a renewed focus as there was a failure by all landlords generally to address repairs in a timely fashion and this, together with homes that retain moisture, residents who can’t afford to turn on heating, or don’t have space outside to dry laundry, combined to blight homes with damp and mould. The situation had been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.

Announcing the new Awaab’s Law earlier this year, housing secretary Michael Gove said: “The tragic death of Awaab Ishak should never have happened. He was inexcusably let down and his family repeatedly ignored.

“Now those landlords who continue to drag their feet over dangerous damp and mould will face the full force of the law.

“Our Social Housing Bill will enshrine tenants’ rights in law and strengthen the housing ombudsman and regulator’s powers so that poor social landlords have nowhere to hide.

“Awaab’s Law will help to ensure that homes across the country are safe, decent and warm.”