CIEH should be more concerned about standards in LA and Social housing!

CIEH should be more concerned about standards in LA and Social housing!

21:04 PM, 3rd July 2018, About 6 years ago 3

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The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has slammed the Government’s response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s report on the private rented sector, with the Government refusing to take on key recommendations.

CIEH had previously worked with the HCLG Select Committee on their inquiry, and gave evidence in February this year urging an update of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) guidance and evidence base.

HHSRS, introduced in the Housing Act 2004, assesses risks to health and safety in the home and looks at faults and deficiencies that could cause injury and ill-health to residents. This system is the basis of how local authorities decide on whether they can or should take formal action on poor housing. The system has been in place since April 2006, and, since Grenfell, has taken on increased importance in ensuring that the places we live in are safe and not a direct danger to our health.

A survey of environmental health professionals, published by CIEH in December 2017 found that:

  • 97% of environmental health professionals believe that the HHSRS needs updating
  • 90% called for an update of the official guidance and better working examples
  • 71 respondents called for underlying statistics of this evidence-based system to be updated
  • 53% said that they had witnessed hazards that could not be addressed with the current system

CIEH has been campaigning for the Government to commit to an update of HHSRS, and its evidence base, to ensure that it stays relevant and up to date going forward. As a result, the HCLG Select Committee echoed this call in their final report, noting that the baseline assumptions within the operating guidance for the HHSRS is now 12 years out of date and need immediately updating. The Committee report recommended a review of HHSRS.

The Government’s refusal to commit to this action has been heavily criticised, with their official response simply stating:

“We recognise that the methodology and associated guidance for the HHSRS is now several years old and we will carefully consider whether it needs to be updated. In doing so, we would wish to reflect upon who is best placed, and has the necessary expertise, to carry out such a review.”

Tamara Sandoul, Housing Policy Manager at CIEH, said:

“We are bitterly disappointed that the Government has decided not to make a decision on the review and update of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System – an issue that has surfaced throughout the Select Committee inquiry into the private rented sector.

The evidence and guidance that local authorities use to take action on dangerous housing conditions has not been reviewed or updated since it was introduced 12 years ago. Housing courts rely on this outdated guidance to make their decisions. We urge the Government to commit to a full update of HHSRS and to see how it could be improved going forward.

We are further disappointed to hear that decisions have also not been made on two other key areas of housing safety. The requirement to undertake 5 yearly electrical safety inspections and the need to provide a working carbon monoxide alarm for all rented properties with a fuel-burning device have been postponed until a later date.

This is simply not good enough and the millions of people currently in the private rented sector expected better.”

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terry sullivan

9:05 AM, 4th July 2018, About 6 years ago

needs abolition

James Barnes

9:24 AM, 4th July 2018, About 6 years ago

How is the headline of this article even remotely connected to the actual content?
The points raised in the body of the text raise valid points about the current method of assessing hazards in dwellings, and suggests that it needs to be updated. Nobody should really have a problem with that.

Laura Delow

12:32 PM, 4th July 2018, About 6 years ago

My apologies for the following diatribe & understand if you give up after a few lines, but although this no doubt needs updating we; the good landlord community should be very careful what of the 29 identified HHSRS hazards we agree should be updated/added to and made mandatory. We; the good landlord community are not the issue (the bad/lazy landlords are) and no doubt i) any/all cost would be passed on directly/indirectly to the good landlord community for the appropriate authorities to police/check culprit properties owned by bad/lazy landlords. Examples; ii) smoke alarms are already mandatory, and I thought carbon monoxide detectors were too, but irrespective of this if we're not careful more responsibility will be passed on to us; at present a landlord only needs to make sure they are in working order at the start of a tenancy leaving the tenant responsible for checking battery life during their tenancy which I think most never do, so if we're not careful this ongoing responsibility of checking during a tenancy could be passed on to us, iii) 5 yearly electrical tests is simple enough to turn this switch on which I agree with/do anyway as I don't want my property burning down or to be responsible for e.g. a kid being electrocuted, but electricians will have a field day with finding C2 urgent improvements & C3 recommended improvement which brings in a nice revenue stream for them; on one of my properties which failed recently I was quoted £752 to carry out the C2 urgent improvements but when my nose told me to check this out (albeit I have no knowledge of how to read these things) I called out British Gas to quote for a Fixed Price job & on giving their electrical engineer the failed electrical report he found all the C2 items should have been C3 & even when asked to still quote, came back a much lower price for the works of which are also guaranteed for 1 year. If this were mandatory some (not all) electricians will be rubbing their hands together with glee as they know we don't understand these reports so I only agree to this being mandatory if there's an interactive site you can input report readings in to & see what comes up as a C2 or not, iv) yearly PAT tests of white goods etc we do anyway but if mandatory without time leeway like with GSC's this would a problem as tenants can be unreliable agreeing access v) EPC's are already mandatory with >F ratings already unlettable. If the authorities could be bothered they can easily check the EPC register for F or below EPC ratings, then link in with the council tax database to see if a different name to the owner comes up (indicating it's let) or if let inclusive of bills & the owners name comes up but is down more than once paying CTax elsewhere, it would indicate it's unlawfully being let out. But beware, the cost to do this would of course be passed on to good landlords vi) Legionella Risk Assessment is presently non mandatory but we nevertheless got trained/authorised & check all properties every 2 years only to find some hot water outlets are not a high enough temperature because the tenant turns down the boiler temperature which we turn up & explain the importance to them but as we leave, yup - they turn it down again, few tenants ever clean shower heads even though we put in new ones at the beginning of each tenancy - all of which we could be held responsible for if made mandatory vii) mould caused by condensation is a landlord's nightmare yet it's funny how in our own homes we don't experience the same problems because we ventilate (fans/windows when bathing or cooking or drying clothes indoors, cook with lids on pans, wipe down bathroom walls after bathing, keep the heating temperature constant rather than on/off & don't turn it off in rooms when not in use etc) but many tenants do not bother/care or choose not to understand (or struggle to appreciate as they come from a country where this problem doesn't exist) & often they close off kitchen & bathroom fans from working in the winter. Over the years I have installed expensive Envirovent units & trickle vent fans in all properties, shaved all doors by 10 mm to allow for air circulation, cleaned & painted with fungicidal products & educated tenants which has worked but it's been years struggling to get to this position to find we need to start all over again with every new tenant. If mandatory & tenants continue to act irresponsibly this could be every landlords biggest nightmare ix) I used to install window restrictors in all properties & small fire extinguishers plus fire blankets but now don't bother (unless mandatory with a housing authority tenant) as tenants always remove the restrictors & the fire equipment used to magically disappear thus costing me at each change of tenancy to reinstall. If mandatory this would be a regular cost at the change of each tenancy & I'm sure we would be held accountable if a kid fell out a window or a frying pan caught fire x) mice droppings / pest controller costs - I've only ever had this problem with tenants from foreign warmer climes! I think any & all tenants (especially if an immigrant) should have to attend & pass a course on how to be a good tenant & what they can expect / cannot expect from their landlord xi) putting rubbish out in plastic bags which urban foxes ravage & here come the mice again - no matter how much you educate some tenants they won't listen but is yet another of the 29 HHSRS hazards which if policed (don't know how) but I'm sure they'd find a way to charge us for this.
It could all be mandatory if we're not careful on top of:-
- we're shortly to be stopped from charging tenants for their referencing
- currently under review; 3 year tenancies that only tenants can break with Shelter shouting for longer than 3 years
- Labour threatening rent caps, smaller deposits & an end to S21's if they get in
- being an unpaid subcontractor border control officer
- cost of Selective licencing that as far as I can tell benefits us not one iota (many of these depts don't even return calls)
- putting up with incompetent councils, housing depts & benefit offices & for those blocks of flats council owned; paying extortionate service charges & massive / regular Section 20 costs as their procurement depts appear to have no business knowledge or skills, many of whom are paid to do a job "well" but sadly many just do the bare minimum if that (my apologies to those of you who do your job well as I know you exist & probably feel as frustrated as I watching your colleagues get away with doing the bare minimum & incompetently).
Yet it is us who still get maligned as the bad guys.
If only an annually reviewable system was in place that "rewarded" landlords who evidence they consistently deliver good quality & safe stable housing. They might find the lazy/bad landlords want to join in!!!

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