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"It was a story which upset me to the core"

Monday 28 November 2022

"It was a story which upset me to the core"

Monday 28 November 2022


The tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak due to mould in his family's Rochdale flat shows why it is so vital that Jersey properly regulates rental homes, argues local lawyer Olaf Blakeley...

Bailiwick Express recently published a news story on Deputy Jonathan Renouf’s proposals to introduce legislation on physical standards of private rental accommodation.

The scheme would involve a licensing system as opposed to a legislative system. The rationale behind it is that if standards required are not met, then a license or registration will be withheld rather than a prosecution.

As a general rule, I'm not a fan of lots of controlling legislation if it can be avoided, but I consider that controls are necessary in the area of rented accommodation because of risks to health and safety; and because I consider there should be absolute minimum standards of living for all.

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Pictured: Deputy Jonathan Renouf recently proposed to introduce legislation on physical standards of private rental accommodation.  

I was sickened reading the BBC news story regarding two-year-old Awaab Ishak who died because he was exposed to mould in a house in Rochdale. According to his father, the problems with damp and mould were raised time and time again but to no avail. If you missed the report

"Rochdale Coroner's Court heard Awaab's father Faisal Abdullah - who came from Sudan to live in the UK in 2016 and was joined by his wife Aisha Amin a year later - reported mould developing in the one-bedroom flat to the housing department in 2017 and was told to paint over it. The following year, Awaab was born prematurely at 31 weeks, but there had been no concerns from any health professionals about his development. The court heard Awaab was taken to Rochdale Urgent Care Centre suffering shortness of breath and transferred to Royal Oldham Hospital before being discharged.  He deteriorated the next day and his parents were advised by the community children's nursing team to take him back to the urgent care centre.

He then went into respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest while being transferred to hospital and died after arriving there. Coroner Joanne Kearsley said the housing department were not "proactive" and asked: "How in the UK in 2020 does a two-year-old child die as a result of exposure to mould?"

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Pictured: Two-year-old Awaab Ishak died because he was exposed to mould in a house in Rochdale.

Well, for my part, the reason why these things happen is incredibly simple: it is because there is an insufficient system in place to dictate minimum standards and substandard infrastructure to properly police rented accommodation and standards. 

The only reason why, in my opinion, a landlord would want to resist a form of registration coming into force is because it may require spending money to bring accommodation up to standard. If what happened to that little boy, Awaab, was to ever happen in this Island a prosecution would have to follow. It would be absolutely appalling.

I cannot understand how anyone who searches on the internet for little Awaab, and sees pictures of him, and then thinks about what happened, could believe that control over standards of accommodation should not be introduced. It is one of those stories which is just upsetting to the core, and makes me angry - which is a rarity for me. 

Currently in Jersey there are some health and safety standards in respect of rented property.

These relate to things such as electric wiring and fire safety, but I consider the Environment Minister’s recommendations and ideas which go far beyond those things, as wholly sensible. The law imposes standards upon all of us: how we drive, how people are employed, duties and obligations between landowners and the specific levels of standard required in respect of those matters are set by those who we elect and as interpreted by our courts. For my part, I see no reason why there should be no clearly defined standards for rental accommodation.

It is the type of legislation which can really make a positive difference and I consider it was really regrettable that the previous attempts to have control over renting property had failed. I have every confidence this time that the plans will come to fruition and I would urge all States’ Members to back the proposition when it is finalised and put before the Assembly. 

Royal Court

Pictured: "If what happened to that little boy, Awaab, was to ever happen in this island, a prosecution would have to follow."

This is my final column this year and so, on a separate note, I would like to wish all readers a very happy Christmas and good health and happiness for 2023.

I am so encouraged receiving such positive comments from my readers on my column and accordingly, I would like to also thank readers for their continued support and kind feedback. 

READ MORE...

This article first appeared in Connect Magazine, which you can read in full below...

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Posted by Bob Wareing-Jones on
I agree entirely with what Olaf Blakeley has to say on this issue and it has been demonstrated time and time again across the British Isles that poor standard housing results in poor health outcomes. The brilliant Professor Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute of Health declared only in September last year that, “Our homes provide the living environment that dictates our health”. Any child living in cold, damp and mouldy homes leads to to lung damage and impairs their development. The risk to health of poor quality accommodation must be addressed by the Government of Jersey. We have an excellent team of Environmental Health Officers who need to have the necessary legislation and regulations in place to ensure all homes meet acceptable standards. For far to long poor landlords have got away with offering accommodation that does not meet even the Decent Homes Standards and this can only be addressed by ensuring anyone renting out a property is Registered and subject to compliance with the law. The Housing, Health and Safety Rating System provides an excellent means in which to gauge the conditions of any property and must be used to raise standards within the housing rental sector.
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