A SCOTTISH man is suing Angus Council for £500,000 after his incredibly mouldy home left him with “serious health issues”.

“I nearly lost my life in hospital,” 60-year-old Hamish Isard told The National, who moved into the council house in the village of Forfar with his partner in 2015.

He added: “I was fit, active. I ate healthily and lived healthily. And this has just been catastrophic – the effect of this. It really is.”

READ MORE: How to reduce window condensation and mould growth

The man is now taking Angus Council to court claiming that, as his landlord, they are in breach of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 which “requires that the house is wind and water tight and in all other respects reasonably fit for human habitation”.

The legal filing, which The National has seen, claims that the home hasn’t been fit for human habitation since 2015 and that the council is liable for Isard’s illnesses since.

The National:

Isard started to feel unwell from around December 2016, with a tight chest and wheezing. He saw his GP, who then gave him an inhaler and oral steroids. He was formally diagnosed with asthma in November 2018 and was admitted to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee with uncontrollable asthma and the flu.

The NHS notes that having damp and mould in your home makes respiratory problems more likely, including respiratory infections and asthma.

The National:

Housing charities across the UK sounded the alarm as to the danger of mould after the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his home.

It saw the passage of Awaab’s Law this year as part of the Social Housing Act, which requires landlords to fix reported hazards in social housing, such as mould, in a “timely fashion” or rehouse tenants in safe accommodation.

Housing is devolved in Scotland, with a different regulatory framework.

The National:

Isard said his condition has deteriorated since his hospitalisation and he has had to stop working as a result – adding that his repeated pleas to the council to sort the issue or help him and his partner move elsewhere have fallen on deaf ears.

Angus Council have taken some action to tackle the damp, the legal filing notes – including fixing a leaked roof in the property in 2017. The council also tried to eradicate the dampness by digging a trench beside the house and filling it with gravel (below) and removing the central heating radiator from the bathroom.

An expert witness report commissioned by Isard’s lawyers and undertaken by Innes Aitken, a chartered building surveyor, said that the house was “not habitable” and that the “mould growth is extensive and serious”.

The National:

The report went on to say that the mould was caused by condensation, not rising or penetrating dampness.

The Scottish House Condition Survey for 2017-2019 found that Angus was the local authority with the highest average condensation rate in Scotland at 16%.

Poorly heated or ventilated homes can experience condensation, and the way a resident uses their home can also affect condensation levels.

Innes Aitken said they were of the opinion that Isard had not “done anything or failed to do anything” that they would expect from any normal local authority tenant when it comes to managing condensation.

The National:

The report added that Angus Council have had a “considerable amount of time to either resolve this issue or decant Hamish Isard to another available property. They have failed to do either”.

Isard said he has also suffered with his mental health as a result of the ordeal, and has been prescribed antidepressants.

“We have been put through eight years of hell from this council and it continues to this day,” he said.

Housing charity Shelter said they couldn’t comment on the case specifically but called on Humza Yousaf to declare a “housing emergency”.

The director of Shelter Scotland, Alison Watson, said: “Mould, damp, and awful conditions are one aspect of the housing emergency that is devastating lives across the country.

“Everyone in Scotland should have somewhere safe, secure, and affordable to call home but right now that isn’t the case for many.

“That’s why we’re calling on the First Minister to declare a housing emergency in Scotland, backed up with a plan to end it – we need to see action now.”

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Stephen Forsyth, a partner at MML Law Dundee, is representing Isard. He said: “Mould has a devastating impact on people. On that basis, we will be pursuing this for our client as vigorously as possible.”

Aditi Jehangir, secretary of tenants union Living Rent, said: "We all deserve to live in mould and damp free homes. Tenants are being forced to accept mould as part of their living experience whilst being told by landlords that it's their fault. We need legislation that puts the responsibility firmly back where it belongs, at the door of the landlords.

"If England can legislate against mould and damp, so can Scotland. Scotland is crying out for legislation similar to Awaab’s law introduced in England. Without government action mould and damp will continue to wreak havoc with people’s health and homes.

"This government needs to legislate to force landlords to eradicate damp and mould in their properties or else tenants will continue to pay the price."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s social rented homes have improved over a number of years to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, with more tenants living in warm, safe and dry homes.

“All social landlords, including local authorities, are already required to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard which requires properties to be free from damp, have adequate ventilation and be suitably insulated and they are required to ensure any requests for repairs are carried out in a timely fashion. Compliance is monitored by the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR). 

“SHR and Scotland’s leading housing organisations have published guidance on how the social sector can respond to damp and mould issues in a timely and proactive manner in order to improve outcomes for tenants. If landlords fail to comply, tenants can escalate complaints to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.”

An Angus Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of these complaints and will not make any further comment at this time.”