This was a phrase that was used by politicians for ‘point scoring’ but it’s actually true. Summer is the time to make sure that our homes are repaired, and that the heating system is serviced or upgraded, along with other ways to increase the energy efficiency in our homes.
Private rented homes are the most energy inefficient, so this Summer blog focuses on Cold Homes and what landlords and tenants can do about them.
First some worrying facts about the Health Risks of cold homes.
• Public Health England says there is “clear evidence of the links between cold temperatures and respiratory problems. Resistance to respiratory infections is lowered by cool temperatures and can increase the risk of respiratory illness.”
• Damp and mould are associated with a 30-50 per cent increase in respiratory problems.
• Around 10,000 extra winter deaths are caused every year by cold homes.
• Reducing preventable ill health arising from cold homes will be vital in protecting NHS and care services this Winter.
A lot of private tenants live in cold homes because the buildings are old, without modern Insulation. They are often not maintained properly and may have damp and mould, windows that let in draughts, and old, inefficient heating systems. This means that they cost a lot to heat, often more than tenants can afford to pay, on top of their high rents.
For many tenants, this leads to ‘fuel poverty’. The Government defines those who are ‘fuel poor’ as people who would need to spend more than the average cost to heat their homes to an acceptable standard and that if they do this, it will leave them with a residual income below the official poverty line.
The scale of the problem is huge and the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting recession is making things a lot worse.
• There are already 2.4m households in fuel poverty many of whom are in severe distress.
• Fuel poverty is set to rocket as an additional 1.79m people become unemployed by the end of 2020 because of the recession.
• Over 30% of households where someone is unemployed are fuel poor.
• Energy bills have jumped 37% due to stay at home / work from home measures in place.
• This means hundreds of thousands more people will be in or at risk of fuel poverty and the worst effects of Covid-19 unless urgent action is taken.
There is a solution to this. While there is currently no cure for Covid-19, cold homes are entirely preventable and four clear actions must be taken to save lives and help address the financial impact of the current crisis.
As a member of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Advice4Renters has joined with others to call for a four-part solution which is ready to be implemented right away.
- Tenants who’ve not been able to pay all their fuel bills because they are fuel poor should have these debts written off by the energy companies, so that tenants don’t have to choose between putting the heating on or having a healthy meal.
- There must be a large-scale energy efficiency programme, to include Government-funded energy improvements in people’s homes including improved heating systems.
- The Government should implement its promises to tackle fuel poverty, such as extending the Warm Home Discount.
- There must be immediate steps to improve energy standards in the private rented sector, alongside improved security and affordability for private tenants.
The Government has taken the first step in the Chancellor’s Budget Statement on 8 July, when it announced a Voucher Scheme for home owners and landlords which will fund two-thirds of the cost of energy efficiency measures. We consider whether this is the best way to address the problem, and why they should be doing more in our. The Chancellor’s July Budget Statement