Michael Gove accuses Lambeth Council of ‘persistent’ failures after child left in mould-ridden home

Housing Secretary Michael Gove (Getty Images)
Housing Secretary Michael Gove (Getty Images)

Michael Gove has accused a London council of persistently failing its tenants after a girl was left in a damp-infested property.

The Housing Secretary wrote to Lambeth Council’s senior leadership on Friday after five “severe maladministration” complaints across three cases were published by the Housing Ombudsman in February.

Among the cases were a girl left in a mouldy and damp property which allegedly exacerbated her eczema until her skin bled and forced her to take time off school.

Mr Gove wrote: “You failed repeatedly to carry out repairs, which exacerbated a child’s health problems.

“We have seen first-hand through the case of Awaab Ishaak how unresolved damp and mould can have tragic consequences.”

Awaab, a two-year-old boy, died in 2022 of a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to black mould in the family’s social housing property in Rochdale.

Last month, the Government announced plans for “Awaab's Law”, which will require social housing providers to fix reported damp and mould issues within certain time limits.

In another case, Lambeth left a disabled resident without a functioning toilet or bath and shower for over three weeks.

And in the third case, the council’s bungled boiler repairs meant a resident who has rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia was without heating and hot water for an extended period of time in the depths of winter.

Mr Gove said: “I was appalled to read about these cases and the persistent failure to provide even the most basic level of decency that a resident should expect from you as a landlord.”

Lambeth was ordered to pay £4,350 in compensation to the tenants in total.

Cllr Donna Harris, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said: “It is totally abhorrent that the Housing Ombudsman has found yet again severe maladministration within Lambeth’s Labour Council.

“Many promises are made and words come so easily but it is action that is needed, not hot air.

“Lambeth Council need to concentrate on hitting their own response times with immediate effect, as they are currently failing dismally.”

The intervention comes just months after a similar letter was written by Mr Gove over two previous housing complaints upheld by the Ombudsman last year.

A Lambeth Council spokesperson said it had apologised to the tenants affected and was committed to quickly fixing issues across its stock of 33,000 homes.

The spokesperson said: “We fully support our residents in their right to raise complaints about any housing issues they face, and have apologised where the services provided to our tenants have fallen below acceptable standards.

“We are focused on making improvements to day-to-day repairs and maintenance, with 10 new firms and a new in-house repairs team assigned to the task.

“This is part of our wider work to proactively reduce instances of disrepair and resolve them in partnership with our residents, including home health checks and a rapid response team to respond to any reports of damp and mould.”