Landlord of boy, 2, who died from mouldy home investigated over cases of damp

The landlord of two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died of mould exposure is under investigation over multiple cases of damp and mould.

The Housing Ombudsman’s probe into Rochdale Boroughwide Housing follows three “high or medium risk” complaints from tenants about damp and mould.

The Mirror visited the Freehold Estate, where Awaab died in 2020, and found families still living with chronic mould and damp two years after the tragedy.

After Awaab’s inquest heard prolonged exposure to mould led to fatal breathing difficulties, RBH said urgent £1.2million work to install ventilation across the 376-property estate will start next month.

In a letter to the housing association’s chief Gareth Swarbrick, ombudsman Richard Blakeway wrote: “I asked my team to review open cases relating to the landlord, in particular damp and mould. I have been alerted to three complaints assessed as high or medium risk.

“I have instructed my team to expedite these investigations.

“We will be exercising our powers to conduct further investigation to establish if this complaint is indicative of wider failure within the landlord.”

Tory MP Chris Clarkson told the Commons that RBH was a “modern-day slumlord” after he was sent photos of another of its properties in nearby Middleton “caked in black mould and rising damp”.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove said this week it “beggars belief” Mr Swarbrick was still in post.

Mr Gove accused landlord Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) of a “terrible dereliction of duty”, and admitted that poor housing quality disproportionately affects people from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said he has been in contact with the housing association “to demand answers”.

He told the House of Commons it was “scarcely believable” that a child could die in such circumstances, adding: “The time for empty promises of improvement is over.

“My department will now name and shame those who have been found by the regulator to have breached consumer standards or who have been found by the ombudsman to have committed severe maladministration.”

He said that too many families have not been given the support they need, saying: “At the moment … the system has been too reliant on people fighting their own corner and we are determined to change that.

Mr Swarbrick has said: “I am truly devastated about Awaab’s death and the things we got wrong. We must make sure this can never happen again.”

RBH said it would meet investigators “at the earliest opportunity to discuss these three cases”.