This platform encompasses 4 basic areas for change that can improve housing for our members and will have a positive environmental impact. These are:
- for the government to strengthen the legal requirements housing providers (private and social) must meet,
- to get rid of exemptions that allow them to dodge their responsibilities,
- to give local authorities the proper resources and power to enforce these standards,
- to increase security for private tenants so we don’t see people getting evicted after their houses are improved.
There are lots of environmental policy changes and demands we could link with our national platform. To ensure a coherent approach and to ensure that we are focussing on an area which we are experts in, this document has focussed upon changes to tenancies that will have a positive environmental impact.
Bring back the Green Homes Grant to retrofit Britain’s homes and legislate for higher standards in upkeep of rented housing.
Almost 19 million homes need upgrading as they are cold and leaky, costing unnecessary money and energy. Currently the energy efficiency rating private landlords must meet is E but there are lots of exemptions. Social housing providers have been challenged by the government to meet Energy performance standard C by 2030. This should be brought forward to 2028 in line with advice from the government Climate Change Committee.
The government should revisit and strengthen the ‘Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018’ to include a set of minimum universal standards. Currently there is the Housing Health Safety Rating System that should be used when assessing whether or not a home is ‘fit for human habitation’ but as there are no clear minimum standards this can be applied differently depending on different assessors’ interpretations. It has also been criticised for being complicated and difficult to understand. We need clearer legislation to hold housing providers accountable.
The centre for sustainable energy says one of the best things you can do to reduce the carbon footprint of a house is regular maintenance work. Old gas boilers are emitting twice as much CO2 as than all the national gas generators combined. Further to this, installing double glazing, extractor fans and ventilation systems, updating appliances, ensuring no door or window frames are cracked and more insulation are key ways to reduce energy consumption.
Remove the ‘cost cap’ that exempts landlords from meeting energy efficiency targets.
As of April 2020, landlords are not able to rent out dwellings that have an energy efficiency rating below E. However, they can be exempt from this rule if they can show they have spent £3,500 in improvements to the energy efficiency of the home, even if the home is still well below standard. This money can come from a third party organisation. This exemption should be scrapped and those who own dwellings must be responsible for making them safe and environmentally friendly to live in and not be given the option to avoid this standard or just do the bare minimum especially as in many cases they are not even required to self fund improvement projects.
Give local authorities greater powers and resources to enforce standards
Currently most councils are the bodies that will inspect and enforce standards in the private rental sector but most are woefully underfunded. They don’t have the money to resource a robust monitoring system which has led to the enforcement action against landlords failing to meet basic standards being weak and incredibly slow. As a union we see countless cases of dangerous mould and damp every month, which councils are yet to take action on due to the sheer volume of cases, their lack of resources and protracted processes for dealing with these issues. These issues are indicative of homes that will cause energy to be wasted. Local authorities need specific ring fenced funding and the power to swiftly impose fines or take legal action against housing providers failing to maintain safety and environmental standards.
End insecure tenancies by scrapping Section 21 and building more social and affordable homes.
This may not seem an obvious environmental issue, but research conducted by Shelter in 2016 showed that 1 in 4 private renters moved house per year and a quarter of renters with children have moved at least 3 times in the last 5 years. When you don’t have stability and security and confidence that you are going to keep living in your house you are much less likely to take up schemes to improve its carbon footprint - especially if these could be time consuming and disruptive. Why put yourself through it if you are going to be turfed out?
Think about all the time, travel and consumer goods it takes to move - all the boxes, the vans, the new furniture because your old stuff won’t quite fit. Now think about how many private renters are doing this every single year. If we had better regulation about the security of tenure, and more secure housing in general through social housing schemes, we would save an awful lot of resources being used to move millions of people, and those people would have more confidence and incentive to take part in schemes to improve the environmental impact of their homes.
Improvements to building standards and safety should not result in ‘renovictions’ where people are evicted after their home is improved as it is worth more, so legislation to improve security is an essential.