Government Avoids Making Decisions in Weak Response to Private Rented Sector Report

04 July 2018, Ross Matthewman

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in their final report, noting that the baseline assumptions within the operating guidance for the HHSRS is now 12 years out of date and need immediately updating.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.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. The full CIEH report into HHSRS can be viewed and downloaded here: https://www.cieh.org/media/1166/hhsrs-11-years-on.pdf
  2. The CHLG Select Committee Report into PRS can be viewed and downloaded here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcomloc/440/440.pdf
  3. The Government’s response to the CHLG Select Committee Report can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/private-rented-sector-government-response-to-the-select-committee-report?utm_source=34cc4aff-f3dd-4ce3-9695-d15e00134656&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

For enquiries or to confirm attendance, please contact Ross Matthewman, Public Affairs and PR Manager, on 020 7827 5922 or r.matthewman@cieh.org

About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):   

CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing more than 8,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved.

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.

For more information visit www.cieh.org and follow the CIEH on Twitter.

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