Nottingham Law School alum’s case creates new law
In November 2022 Christian Weaver, Nottingham Law School alum, represented the parents of Awaab Ishak in a deeply troubling case involving their son's tragic death. Awaab’s Law, created as a result of this case, introduces new time limits for social housing landlords to promptly investigate and address reported health hazards, including damp and mould.
Awaab, a two-year-old boy, lost his life due to prolonged exposure to mould in his Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) owned home.
"The revelations from the inquest were truly harrowing, and the impact of Awaab's case was felt nationwide, leading headlines for several weeks." Christian said. "What made this case especially significant was the heart-wrenching fact that Awaab's family had repeatedly pleaded with RBH to address the damp and mould in their home, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. To make matters worse, RBH attributed the mould issue to the "ritual bathing habits" of Awaab's family, without any basis or evidence. Astonishingly, RBH never even bothered to inquire about their bathing practices, with Awaab's father firmly stating in the inquest that no such rituals took place, and that they used a shower for bathing."
The inquest exposed a multitude of issues, prompting the Housing Ombudsman to conduct an investigation into Rochdale Boroughwide Housing. The investigation revealed a deeply concerning culture of "othering" residents, which, at its core, contributed to these distressing problems.
Following the inquest, social housing tenants from across the country came forward, sharing their own experiences of living in substandard accommodation and being ignored by landlords.
"The impact of Awaab's case was undeniable. The family’s heartfelt plea after the inquest was crystal clear: change must happen to spare other families from the devastation they endured. Their voice needed to be heard."
Christian appeared on all major media platforms speaking of the importance of change in social housing and shedding light on the harrowing facts of Awaab’s case. He also wrote a piece in the Guardian highlighting steps the public could take to ensure that Awaab’s death would not be in vain.
Recognising that change must start from within RBH, Christian campaigned on behalf of the family, urging for a new leadership team to be installed at RBH. Despite initial resistance from RBH, the persistence of the campaign led to a successful change in leadership.
Christian worked closely with the Manchester Evening News, change.org, Shelter and a group of dedicated MPs in the campaign for an Awaab’s Law. Thanks to members of the public, the petition obtained over 177,000 signatures and was ultimately delivered to the doorstep of 10 Downing Street.
Christian represented the family in negotiations with Michael Gove MP; working to shape the more precise terms of the law and aiming to ensure its effectiveness in bringing about the necessary changes and addressing the pressing issues within the social housing landscape.
"Awaab's Law marks a significant breakthrough by introducing new time limits for social housing landlords to promptly investigate and address reported health hazards, including damp and mould. Should landlords fail to adhere to these time limits, tenants now have the right to take their concerns to court. This means landlords can no longer view repairing poor quality housing as an option, but as a legal duty." said Christian.
Christian joined Awaab’s family in the House of Lords to see the passage of the Social Housing Regulation Bill (which Awaab’s Law is a part of) go through Parliament. On 20 July 2023, the Social Housing Regulation Bill received Royal Assent from the King.
Being entrusted with the responsibility of assisting families like Awaab's is an immense honour. These cases not only hold great significance for the families involved but also have the potential to catalyse positive societal change. I am deeply indebted to Nottingham Law School, where I gained the invaluable confidence and essential skills that enable me to undertake the work I do today. The unwavering support of my lecturers and mentors at Nottingham Law School has been remarkable, as they consistently went above and beyond to guide and nurture my growth. Nottingham Law School provided a nurturing environment that allowed me to develop my character and hone my skills, fostering a safe space to test and refine the abilities that have now become integral to both my personal life and professional career.
Regarding Awaab's Law, the government will conduct consultations to determine the appropriate time limit for social landlords to investigate health hazards in tenants' homes. "I strongly encourage everyone to participate in this consultation process." said Christian.
"Separate from this, my goal is to create a society where everyone knows and understands their rights. 'The Law in 60 Seconds: A Pocket Guide to Your Rights' embodies my passion for making legal information accessible and clear."
In the next phase of his journey, Christian is determined to ensure that 'The Law in 60 Seconds' reaches those who need it most. His vision is to have the book available in every prison, school, college, and university, ensuring that no one remains uninformed about their fundamental rights.
"If you share my passion for making the law more accessible and believe you can help me reach individuals in these places, please feel free to get in touch with me. Let's unite, explore ideas, and collaborate to achieve our shared goal of empowering a community that is well-informed, confident, and capable of defending their rights."
Christian has since been named Legal Aid Newcomer of the Year 2023. He was recognised for his “tireless efforts” representing bereaved families at inquests, including the family of Awaab Ishak, and the consequential launch of Awaab's Law.
- Category: Nottingham Law School