Rats, mould and damp - action plan to help Sunderland residents living in 'absolutely terrible' conditions

An action plan has been drawn up to help ensure quality housing standards in Sunderland amid concerns over links between poor conditions and health issues.

City council chiefs stressed numerous steps are being taken, including discussions with registered providers, to ensure homes are of a good standard and residents can live safely in them.

However concerns were also raised from councillors over “absent landlords” in Sunderland leading to properties being in “absolutely terrible” conditions and hit with issues such as damp and mould, along with rat infestations.

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The latest meeting of the council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee on Tuesday, January 31, heard work is being done nationally to drive up property standards.

Stock image of a resident coping with mould.Stock image of a resident coping with mould.
Stock image of a resident coping with mould.

Graham Scanlon, council assistant director of housing and communities, said they have already developed an action plan and are working with registered housing providers as they seek to be “ahead of the game”.

He said: “It’s something we’re working through with them [providers] to understand how we can keep track of that and get assurances they’re doing all that they can and what is possible to ensure that people of the city are as safe as they can be.

“We want the health of every resident in the city to be paramount and the landlords who are active need to do their bit and be responsible for everything that goes on.

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“We also want to make sure that we’re providing advice to landlords and support to landlords where possible so that they know how to deal with some of the problems in their home”

Calls had been made for the discussion on housing standards to come forward after in November two-year-old Awaab Ishak died from a respiratory condition caused by exposure to mould in his rented Rochdale home.

Council officers added how despite their work with registered providers, there are also issues with absent landlords “who have never been to Sunderland” yet own properties in the area as an investment, and are therefore hard to get hold of.

Labour councillor Mel Speding, Shiney Row ward representative, noted this is impacting housing standards in parts of the Coalfield area.

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He said: “It’s terrible, it’s absolutely terrible. We’re in 2023, we’re not in 1910, we should be a long way better than what we are, that’s my opinion.

“These properties, people live next door to these properties, they have to heat one and half houses each, they have to live with rats, they have to live with damp.”

He added while trying to get issues resolved he has met “red tape” and noted most of the properties are owned by absent landlords who “only want a return on their investment” and don’t care about standards in the city.

Sunderland is also part of a national “testbed” pilot programme exploring how technology can be used to deliver healthier homes by monitoring issues such as cold or dampness in the city’s houses.

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Officers reported this has been successful and they will be going to London next week to present their work and “promote the eradication of mould and damp homes across the country”.

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