Mould Induced Asthma: Why Social Housing Needs To Act Now
On 29 June 2023, I gave a virtual presentation to the Association of Women Solicitors on mould induced asthma claims.
As well as being a solicitor specialising in personal injury and housing claims I am also a committee member of the Association of Women Solicitors and it was a wonderful opportunity to share the practice I am so passionate about with my community of professional support.
These cases are so important to me because of the potentially fatal effects of air pollutants on society’s most vulnerable and particularly our children. I hope this presentation in some way raises awareness of this danger, challenges common prejudices and improves the standard of homes in England.
The Housing Crisis
To understand why England’s housing situation is where it is and why some social tenants have no option but to live in homes in disrepair for long periods of time I briefly explored the social housing crisis. Using statistics collated by Inside Housing and Shelter it is apparent there has been a decline in house building across England for decades but disproportionately so with social housing. This coupled with right to buy, budget cuts, planning difficulties and numerous other issues has meant that we are in a severe social housing deficit.
The housing crisis has severely negatively impacted around a third of England’s population however social tenants who are often our society’s most vulnerable often have no recourse to alternative accommodation that may be available to other residents.
Assistance for tenants
Often our housing clients, their medical treaters and politicians have reported the problem to a landlord, sometimes over decades, to no avail. We discussed some of the ways tenants can report these issues, the importance of keeping their own records and other routes to ensuring their landlord is notified.
Mould and Damp
To understand how mould impacts asthma we first established what mould is and how it occurs. I shared some common examples of the types of damp and mould our housing clients experience in their homes.
While some causes of damp are apparent and therefore so is the solution, others are harder to diagnose and therefore it is important that damp is investigated by someone appropriately qualified to do so. It is also important that landlords and tenants communicate effectively as tenants can give information on how the damp behaves making it easier for the landlord to locate the cause and remedy it where it is their duty to do so.
This communication can be hindered by some common assumptions by landlords, and we discussed some assumptions we often see and how these can be used as an excuse to avoid proper investigation.
There are also some methods tenants can use to reduce water vapour and humidity in their homes, however, most of these should only be used as short-term temporary methods while the landlord takes steps to resolve the cause. Tenants should be able to conduct everyday activities within their homes.
Mould and Asthma
Asthma is a common condition in England that varies in severity from those rarely needing an inhaler to those who sadly lose their lives to the condition. We explored the common causes and exacerbations of asthma.
Asthma and mould research has come a long way in the past few decades. Research has shown that mould can cause asthma especially in children, it can make asthma symptoms significantly worse and can even negatively affect those who do not suffer from asthma or allergies.
Currently, research does not support that damp alone has a detrimental effect on asthma symptoms save for damp causes mould and encourages dust mites. Therefore, if damp problems are investigated and rectified before mould has an opportunity to form tenants may not develop asthma, showing the importance of dealing with disrepair efficiently and effectively.
The presentation was focused on social tenants and with that in mind, we went through the negative impacts of asthma on those with the condition and their carers. Ultimately, we saw that living with severe asthma can be expensive, time-consuming and have a negative impact on socialising, education and work.
As asthma is a common condition to investigate the effect mould has had on an individual’s symptoms and any potential injury claim we need to consider records, witness evidence and obtain expert evidence. With Fixed Recoverable Costs being introduced in October 2023, this may become harder to do proportionately. We also briefly looked at how much asthma claims can be worth.
Are you a tenant and worried about damp, mould and asthma in your house?
Finally, we considered the most important point; these properties are homes. People should be able to live in a home that is safe and secure where they can live, relax and be with their loved ones without it harming them or their children.
We discussed how some landlord attitudes need to change, works need to be investigated and completed quickly and the importance of listening to the advice and guidance of professionals.
In the housing industry, we often refer to properties as ‘stock’ but they are in fact someone’s home, it is important we all keep this in mind.
I would like to thank the Association of Women Solicitors for giving me the opportunity to present, the attendees and my clients who allow me to represent them.* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*