Hackney Council sued after council home caused lung disease

Thu,26 January 2023
News Housing

A tenant with an incurable lung condition he argues was caused by the mould the council allowed to grow in his flat has called for greater punishments for councils and landlords that fail to act on "inhumane" living conditions.

Max, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, which causes shortness of breath and a persistent dry cough. The autoimmune condition is usually triggered by exposure to certain irritants such as chemicals or fungus. Max was diagnosed four years after moving into a flat riddled with leaks, damp and black mould that was offered to him by Hackney council.

Three doctors on separate occasions produced letters stating that there were medical dangers to Max's living situation; one said that his existing home put him at "extra risk of lung complications". One of these letters was sent to the council in 2021. 

Max says that the council repeatedly told him that the damp and black mould was because of his breathing or cooking. The council said it could only comment on this claim if it knew who he spoke to. "It was only in 2020 that I realised all the symptoms I was having were because I was constantly breathing mould spores," said Max. "And that was when I started to cough up blood."

Last year, the Housing Ombudsman found Hackney council guilty of "severe maladministration" in its failure to deal with dampness and mould in another resident's home. Now Max is taking the council to court over how it treated him and how sarcoidosis has impacted his life. Increasing evidence suggests mould exposure is one of the major causes of the disease.

This story comes just a few months after housing secretary Michael Gove cut all government funding to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing after the death of the toddler Awaab Ishak's death was found to have been caused by exposure to mould

In December 2022, Disability Rights UK, as part of the Homes for Us Alliancewrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, to demand social housing reform from the Government.

Mikey Erhardt, Housing Policy Advisor at Disability Rights UK, said:

"As Disabled people, we pay too much for way too little. At the same time as  increasing the stock of accessible housing, we must tackle the housing disrepair that worsens our impairments and conditions or Disable us entirely. 

All tenants need to be empowered to speak up, and challenge the barriers that prevent us from having the warm, safe, accessible  and affordable homes we deserve. The Regulator of Social Housing must be given extra powers to tackle the bad practice of social landlords that disregard the needs of their Disabled tenants , Rochdale Borough Housing and now Hackney too.

We need immediate action to tackle the housing emergency. The Government must freeze rents for all and retrofit our houses, so they are safe and accessible. The Government has let this crisis run on for far too long, and we need change now."