Memorandum by the Chartered Institute
of Environmental Health (CIEH) (DHB 14)
Founded in 1883, the Chartered Institute of
Environmental Health (CIEH) is a professional and education body,
dedicated to the promotion of environmental health and to encouraging
the highest possible standards in the training and the work of
environmental health professionals.
The Chartered Institute has approximately 9,500
members, most of whom work for local authorities (LAs) in England,
Wales and Northern Ireland. As well as providing services and
information to its members, the Chartered Institute provides information
to government departments and evidence to them on proposed legislation
relevant to environmental health.
In 1993 the Chartered Institute became the World
Health Organisation (EURO) Collaborating Centre for Environmental
Health Management in Europe.
The charitable aim of the CIEH is to "promote
Environmental Health for the benefit of the public"; to this
end, the Chartered Institute seeks, among other things, to support
and represent the interests of those, wherever they work, engaged
in the practice of Environmental Health.
In respect of private housing this consists
of activities to secure the repair and improvement of properties
in the private rented sector and activities to secure and promote
the repair and improvement of owner occupied properties through
the administration of various forms of financial assistance. Properties
which require particular attention by Environmental Health Officers
(EHOs) are those let in multiple occupation (HMOs).
Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) employed
by local housing authorities are well placed, by virtue of their
qualifications, training and experience to address the day to
day problems raised by poor housing standards; they can bring
an holistic approach to enforcement using the following qualities:
experience in risk assessment procedures
and ability to take an holistic view of the health, safety and
welfare of occupiers alongside traditional building and means
of escape defects;
skills in tenant liaison (in addition
to dealing with the problems of bricks and mortar) which is vital
to achieve the goals in privately rented premises where the inevitable
disruption can cause severe problems for occupiers many of whom
are the most disadvantaged members of the community;
experience and training in administering
prosecutions including Court appearances when litigation becomes
control of a broad range of functions
with consequent ability to resolve conflicts between them when
they arise; and
ability to provide a central unitary
point of contact for all involved including local authority housing/rehousing
officers, rent officers, social services, housing benefits, tenancy
relations and voluntary agencies.
Other specific activities include area renewal,
clearance and demolition, compulsory purchase, the establishment
and promotion of landlords forums and wide ranging partnership
1.1 The CIEH supports the aims of the Bill
in its attempts to raise standards in the private sector, protect
the health, safety and welfare of tenants, encourage good performance
from responsible landlords and provide sanctions to address contraventions.
1.2 The CIEH will be responding in detail
to the consultation on the draft Housing Bill and has also responded
to previous consultations on HMO Licensing, the Housing Health
and Safety Rating System, and Selective Licensing.
1.3 This submission includes a summary of
the views already submitted by the CIEH together with comments
on new proposals in the draft bill. The submission does not go
into much detail as that will be left to the Chartered Institute's
response to the draft Bill. The CIEH will be pleased however to
give more detailed oral evidence to the Select Committee if requested.
2. HOUSING HEALTH
2.1 It remains difficult for the Chartered
Institute to express definitive views on the merits or otherwise
of the Rating System until such time as the guidance on enforcement
has been published; this has been promised by the Minister of
State for Housing, Planning and Regeneration but no date for publication
has been set. Research into the system, commissioned by the ODPM,
has still not been published to date.
2.2 Furthermore, it will not be possible
to fully evaluate the potential effectiveness of the system until
version 2 of the guidance has been published; this has been promised
for early 2004.
2.3 The CIEH supports a number of the proposals
in the draft Bill but has concerns about some of the practical
details. The CIEH recognises the shortcomings in the existing
2.4 The CIEH is committed to the promotion
and preservation of public health and therefore supports the principle
of risk rating to protect the health, safety and welfare of occupants
of substandard housing.
2.5 The CIEH welcomes the guidance that
has been produced relating to the identification of hazards in
the domestic environment.
2.6 In making best use of limited resources
the CIEH considers it good practice to prioritise housing work
on the basis of the number of occupants affected and their vulnerability.
2.7 The HHSRS, as proposed, will entail
prioritisation for action primarily on the basis of condition
only. The CIEH is concerned that the proposed system considers
the impact of a defect for the most vulnerable group of occupants
by age but does not take into account the risk to still more vulnerable
occupants who may live in the property.
2.8 The CIEH believes that the thresholds
for determining the duty for local authorities to intervene to
deal with substandard housing should be set so as to increase
the number of properties brought up to standard. Ultimately this
should be determined by identifying the health benefits that could
be achieved through a substantial improvement in housing quality.
2.9 One issue that has been highlighted
by the CIEH in the past but which appears to remain unresolved
is that of the use of the system to deal with urgent issues (in
advance of and separate from an assessment of a property under
the system). This is regarded as a key issue by the CIEH.
2.10 One of the policies of the CIEH is
that the Decent Homes standard should not just apply to the social
sector. The government's stated aim to reduce the number of vulnerable
people living in non-decent homes in the private sector is acknowledged
but the CIEH is concerned that the Housing Health and Safety Rating
System will be ineffective if not irrelevant in securing this
2.11 The Chartered Institute believes that
the system will be an ineffective tool in area renewal activity
and could even be detrimental as the use of the system could inhibit
the use of demolition orders.
3. HMO LICENSING
3.1 The CIEH broadly welcomes the proposals
set out in the Draft Bill. The CIEH has campaigned for some time
for measures (including licensing) to control the worst HMOs and
provide local authorities (LAs) with the means to identify all
the HMOs in their areas and to raise the standards for tenants
so as to protect their health safety and welfare.
3.2 The CIEH believes that the broad aims
and objectives will raise standards in HMOs. The CIEH believes,
however, that it is vital that LAs incorporate the control of
HMOs into their overall housing strategies.
3.3 LAs with large numbers of HMOs in their
areas will inevitably take some considerable time to complete
the first stage of the licensing process with current resources.
The CIEH urges the government to make available resources in the
form of a Supplementary Credit Allocation for which LAs can bid
for "pump priming" funding to deal with the initial
licensing of their HMOs.
3.4 The proposals in the draft Bill (which
were not included in the original consultation on HMO licensing)
for Interim and Final Management Orders appear to be very similar
to current legislative procedures for Management and Control Orders.
The CIEH is concerned that LAs will not make use of the proposed
powers due to their complexity and the resource implications of
their use. Very few Control Orders have been made since they were
enacted. It is essential that the arrangements for the proposed
Management Orders are as straightforward and simple as possible
to encourage their use.
3.5 The CIEH supports the proposals to place
many of the definitions and other provisions in secondary legislation
to enable flexibility in making amendments in the light of legal
judgments but in the absence of the proposed regulations, it is
difficult to comment meaningfully on the predicted effect of many
of the Bill's proposals.
3.6 The CIEH believes that the parameters
set out for mandatory licensing are unduly restrictive. The power
to enable LAs to extend licensing to HMOs outside the mandatory
scheme is acknowledged; however there are types of accommodation
which fall outside the proposed mandatory scheme but which are
nevertheless widely considered to be high risk. The mandatory
parameters therefore need to be widened or, at the very least,
clear guidance given as to types of HMOs to which LAs are expected
to extend licensing.
3.7 There are concerns as to how enforcement
action will be taken in the future in respect of self contained
flats in a converted house, as the proposed definition of an HMO
specifically requires the sharing of specific amenities. Houses
let in multiple occupation which consist of dwellings, each of
which contain their own amenities, but which consist of three
or more storeys, constitute as high a risk as those in which amenities
are shared, particularly in respect of escape from fire. This
cannot be what the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister intends
and the Chartered Institute believes this to be an error.
3.8 The definitions concerning licensees
considered to be "fit and proper" are entirely negative.
The CIEH believes that the criteria should include membership
of recognised organisations such as the Independent Housing Ombudsman
and the ability to demonstrate competence through training.
3.9 Matters in respect of HMO Licensing
which remain unresolved include:
3.9.1. timescales for LAs to implement licensing
3.9.2. whether or not LAs are to be required
to inspect a property before issuing a licence
3.9.9. whether or not LAs are to be required
to monitor standards in licensed premises
3.9.4. the nature and role of the proposed
approved code of practice for management standards insofar as
the code affects management regulations
4.1 The CIEH welcomes the idea of selective
licensing but believes that the selective licensing tool should
be available for all LAs if they can justify its use in their
areas (ie it should not be restricted to low demand areas), to
enable them to tailor the scheme to their own needs; the scheme
needs to be broad based. If an LA can show that selective licensing
is relevant it should be available for use within the whole local
authority area; landlords who are not "fit and proper"
would not then be able to move outside the licensing area into
another area within the same LA. LAs which are participating in
low demand pathfinder projects are required by the Audit Commission
to conduct an adjacency impact assessment".
4.2 The proposals in the Bill to allow LAs
to use selective licensing in areas not deemed to be "low
demand" are not adequately explicit.
4.3 Attention needs to be paid to the problem
of accidental and naïve landlords to assist them out of financial
difficulties where appropriate. Many landlords are in fact reluctant
landlords and often cannot, for various reasons, sell their property.
4.4 The proposals appear to target criminal
landlords (who often let to anti-social tenants) but one of the
key problem that needs to be addressed is former owner occupiers
who do not have the necessary skills to be effective landlords.
4.5 Selective licensing should not be seen
in isolation and is not a panacea. It should be used as another
tool within an authority's overall housing strategy. LAs should
have the discretion to licence the owner, the person having control
or the agent as appropriate.
4.6 Registered Social Landlords frequently
do not take adequate responsibility for their properties in low
demand areas. RSLs need to be encouraged in areas where they have
effectively given up trying to let in such areas.
4.7 The proposals do not address the link
between housing benefit and the condition of properties.
4.8 Properties in many low demand areas
are suitable only for demolition and, as the document suggests,
careful consideration must be given to alternative measures before
selective licensing is pursued.
4.9 The scheme should not be too prescriptive
as there is a great diversity of problems across the country and
solutions will need to match local situations.
4.10 In the context of low demand, the CIEH
proposes the following definition of obsolescence: "A house
is deemed to be obsolete if it cannot, by reason of design or
construction (whether or not it is statutorily unfit) and the
environment in which it is located, meet the housing needs of
any socio-economic group and there is no demand nor need for such
housing in the local market."
4.11 Greater clarity is needed in respect
of some of the conditions for the designation of areas to be subject
to selective licensing, in particular the extent to which "social"
conditions relate to anti-social behaviour.
5. HOME INFORMATION
5.1 This is not seen as a key issue for
the Chartered Institute but the Institute has concerns regarding
amendments of the proposals insofar as they relate to low demand
areas and those affected by Radon. Such amendments could adversely
affect housing markets in such areas. The effectiveness of the
proposed enforcement regime is also questioned.