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Why ACE supports the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill

On Friday 19th January 2018, Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Private Members’ Bill will have its Second Reading in Parliament.

Why is this Private Member’s Bill needed?

According to the latest English Housing Survey, 16.8%, approximately 797,000 households, of private tenanted properties have Category 1 HHSRS hazards, these are classed as a serious risk to the occupiers’ health.  There are a further 243,000 social tenanted properties which have Category 1 HHSRS hazards.

That means that over a million homes in the social rented sector and private rented sector have at least one Category 1 hazard, affecting approximately 2.5 million tenants, including children.

This Private Member’s Bill revives a clause which exists in an old piece of legislation, requiring homes to be ‘fit for human habitation’ at the start of the tenancy and to remain so throughout. Extraordinarily, this is a not a protection currently enjoyed by any renter – social or private – in England.

Landlords have responsibilities to do repairs under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), and from April 2018 Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), but there are omissions including, for example, damp and mould caused by the structure of the building. Landlords have to repair the structure of their property, and keep in repair the heating, gas, water and electricity installations, but this only applies where something is broken or damaged.

What does the Bill do?

The Bill aims to complement existing local authority enforcement powers, by enabling all tenants – no matter what tenure they live in – to take action. .

The central aim of the Bill is to make rented homes ‘fit for human habitation’ and applies to all areas of a building ‘in which the landlord has an interest’, including communal areas.

The Bill text reflects the list of 29 hazards from HHSRS, which avoids creating two parallel standards for conditions. This means that additional regulations will not be placed on private landlords (as these are standards they should already be meeting), and as a result the Bill has support from the Residential Landlord’s Association (RLA) and the National Landlords Association (NLA).

The Bill would empower tenants giving them the right to take their landlord to court if they fail to take action to resolve a problem. This is particularly important for local authority tenants, who currently have no truly effective means of redress over poor condition.

Link to the House of Commons research briefing:

http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8185#fullreport

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Local Story – Energy Efficiency in Castle Point

With winter around the corner, we are pleased to announce that our ninth Local Story focusing on the Castle Point constituency is now out: Energy Efficiency in Castle Point.

This report highlights how tens of thousands of local residents have benefited from local energy efficiency schemes in recent years, making their homes more affordable to heat and healthier to live in. However, nearly 11,000 homes in Castle Point still have the very worst energy efficiency rating of an E, F or G EPC. These homes waste hundreds of pounds worth of fuel each year, and living in them can be hugely detrimental to health.

Special thanks go to our two case studies for this report: LOCASE (Low Carbon across the South East) and Aran Services.   Nina Heigham from Aran Services said:

‘Working closely with the two local authorities enables us to assist them in helping improve their residents’ well-being and making their homes more comfortable to live in. We are still identifying homes in the area that need insulation and are entitled to 100% grant funding, and so we are asking residents to help spread the word. There are poorly insulated properties scattered throughout Castle Point and Rochford communities, and even if residents have already had work completed, they may know someone who may benefit’

Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris added:

‘After seven years co-Chairing the Parliamentary Group on Fuel Poverty and energy efficiency I know that fuel poverty remains a significant issue, and many of my constituents were very concerned about the cost of heating their homes last winter. The energy efficiency of the housing stock and businesses across the Castle Point has improved in recent years and I commend the work that local installers and programme managers have done to implement energy saving features in homes…’

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Campaigns

Tanya Kenny – Campaigner

Tanya joined ACE in December 2008 and currently works part-time with the Parliamentary team, where she has been mainly involved with the Sectoral Targets Bill. She completed an MA in Globalisation, Development & Transition at the University of Westminster in 2004, where her thesis focussed on the issue of climate change and the sovereignty of the nation state. Following this, Tanya worked at Friends of the Earth and then at Local Works where she was one of the campaigners for the Sustainable Communities Bill. Prior to this Tanya taught English for several years in Bangkok, Portugal and also back in London.

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