Luke Brooks died after the council failed to order his landlord to remove mould from his home

Mould in a rented flat
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A Manchester coroner has ordered an inquest into the death of Luke Brooks. Luke died after developing breathing difficulties linked to his “heavily mould-infested” rented accommodation.

Luke lived in Oldham, not so far away from the Rochdale social housing flat where two-year-old Awaab Ishak died after prolonged exposure to black mould, as a coroner’s court recently ruled.

London Renters’ Union tweeted a stark message:

Coroner Joanne Kearsley – who recently presided over Awaab Ishak’s inquest – ruled that there should be an investigation into Luke Brooks’ death.

Complaints ignored

27-year-old year old Luke lived with his parents in their rented accommodation. They told the Manchester Evening News that he was a “fit lad” and a talented artist.

Luke developed a rash before his death, and complained of difficulty breathing. He developed fatal pneumonia, which caused acute respiratory distress syndrome. The coroner’s court found provisionally that this was due to mould at his home.

Luke’s family have lived at the property for eight years. They complained to the council about the state of the accommodation. Environmental health officers visited last November.

The landlord was instructed to make some improvements, but crucially they were not told to address the mould issue. This is despite the inspectors finding mould in Luke’s room.

‘Corporate manslaughter’

Luke died just weeks before the inquest into Awaab’s death. Steve Topple previously wrote for the Canary:

The coroner ruled that Awaab died due to mould exposure that RBH failed to deal with. The housing association repeatedly ignored Awaab’s family’s desperate pleas for help. Since the coroner’s verdict, RBH has sacked its boss after he refused to resign.

The bottom line is this housing association committed what some people are saying is corporate manslaughter against him.

Topple described how RBH initially blamed the mould in Awaab’s house on his family. Their response was clearly racist. The barrister for the Ishak family said that:

At first, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing said that [the cause of the mould] was due to the ritual bathing practices of the family, or the cooking practices that are common among some cultures, all with no evidence.

Blatant classism

In Luke’s case, the environmental health officers found mould in his room, when they visited in November. However, they chose not to order the landlord to deal with it. They clearly felt it was ok for Luke to live in mouldy accommodation. This is a classist attitude that devalues the lives of renters. It’s an attitude that places more importance on the rights of landlords to make a profit, than on the health of their tenants.

One of the police officers who accompanied the environmental health officer said – in evidence at the Coroner’s Court – that Luke’s room was “untidy” and there were “animals present”. These remarks reek of classism: the implication being that we shouldn’t be blaming the landlord for the mould, but blaming Luke for how he kept his room.

The inquest into Luke’s death will examine whether his landlord bears criminal responsibility and whether the council should have intervened.

The housing crisis is forcing us to live in dangerous squalor

Luke’s family are private renters, while Awaab lived in social housing. But the underlying reasons for both their deaths stem from the state. Luke and Awaab – like many of us – were forced to live in unsafe conditions by the classist, racist society that we live in. Authorities allowed Luke to die because of classism, while RBH is responsible for Awaab’s death due to its institutional racism, and its classism, too.

If you want to fight back against your housing conditions, then you might want to join a renters’ union. Check out the Acorn, Living Rent, and London Renters’ Union websites, and get organised.

The featured image is of mould in a rented flat, via screenshot/ITV News

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