The Inside Edge
Almost a third of all properties in the private rented sector have major safety hazards according to data released in a Government survey of housing stock in the UK.
The annual English Housing Survey reveals that 28.2% of homes in the private rented sector have what is known as a category 1 hazard. This is compared to 14.5% of local authority properties, 10.8% of housing association properties and 21.5% of owner-occupied accommodation.
A category 1 hazard is classified by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and includes any hazard that could cause death, permanent loss of consciousness, lung cancer, the loss of hand and foot, heart attacks, 80% burn injuries, eye disorders and poisoning.
Under the Housing Act 2004, these hazards obligate a local authority to vacate a property of all tenants and to arrange immediate repair and making safe of these hazards. The most hazardous type of property is flat conversions, with 37.7% having at least one category 1 hazard. Older properties can also pose more dangers especially those built before 1919.
A total of almost 5 million properties in the UK have such hazards with the most common hazards being those which could cause slips and falls. Baths, stairs, and showers with inadequate or poorly installed grab rails and handles were the most likely areas to cause issues.
Newspapers recently published a story about how an 85 year old man in Hackney, East London, became stuck in his bath with no heating or food for five days. Luckily he was able to reach his sink to drink water, but even this suggested the bathroom was too small and not fit for purpose. The man was only rescued when friends became worried about his whereabouts.
The second largest hazard listed was excess cold and this is especially a problem for those aged 60 or over. A healthy indoor temperature as at around 21C, but many properties were found to have inadequate heating leading to a serious risk to health.,
The report said: “The percentage rise in deaths in winter is greater in dwellings with low energy efficiency ratings. There is a gradient of risk with age of the property, the risk being greatest in dwellings built before 1850, and lowest in the more energy efficient dwellings built after 1980.”
Other category 1 hazards included biocides, asbestos, lead and radiation, carbon monoxide, and electrical and fire hazards. Of course, occupier behaviour can also play a major part in the risk these hazards pose and certainly was a factor in over 80% of fires in rented accommodation last year. However, there were also 2000 fires in the same year associated with faulty wiring and cabling, issues that can be avoided.
All landlords have a duty to protect their tenants and a vested interest in protecting their property investment. Any category 1 hazards need to be dealt with immediately with tenants vacating the premises if necessary whilst any other reported hazards should be assessed and dealt with as soon as possible or at the very least made safe.