The government has been criticised for continuing to drag its heels over taking on key recommendations made in a recent report designed to improve standards in the private rented sector.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has expressed its disappointment at the government’s weak response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s report on the PRS, insisting that people currently in the private rented sector “expected better”.
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, which has been in place since April 2006, is the basis of how local authorities decide on whether they can or should take formal action on poor housing.
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, while 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.
But despite being 12 years out of date and in need of a review, according to the committee report, the government has so far refused to commit to any action.
The official response from the government states: “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, commented: “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 five 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.”