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Experts call for old safety measures to be updated

by Felicity Collier

ENVIRONMENTAL health workers across the country are calling on the government to update housing safety measures, in the wake of Grenfell.

Some 97 per cent said government guidance needed updating, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) found.

Current regulations to protect tenants’ wellbeing were brought in over a decade ago.

As the number of people living in privately rented homes has increased significantly over the past two decades, the CIEH urged reform to make the system fit for purpose.

Its report describes the current Housing Health and Safety Rating System as “a complicated system for landlords/tenants/letting agents to understand,” and open to interpretation.

“If we went to a very poor property today and compared it to the average property in the 1990s, then it would not be ‘that bad,’ but if we compared it to today’s average property, it may compare very badly,” CIEH said.

The report follows Labour’s proposals to impose fines on landlords so “tougher” minimum standards can be maintained for renters — including safe wiring and appliances, freedom from damp and general good repair of homes.

While CIEH’s survey was conducted before the Grenfell Tower disaster, respondents highlighted the need to review fire and electrical safety, adding that the outcome of the public inquiry should inform any changes.

The report detailed the changing risks of harm due to a fire, citing “increasing crowding in smaller urban dwellings, due to subdivision of houses and flats into smaller flats” and different high-density dwellings.

It recommended five-yearly checks “by a competent electrician,” cautioning that environmental health professionals are unlikely to test all major appliances.

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