Poorly insulated cold homes are a health hazard costing health service a fortune

April 8th, 2011 by Friends of the Earth

The Health Costs of Cold Dwellings report (click cover image to download)

Caring for people made ill living in cold rented homes costs the UK’s National Health Service £145 million a year, reveals new research launched by Friends of the Earth on 7 April, as the green campaigning charity calls for a new law to protect tenants.

The modelling, carried out by public health experts the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health, found that 655,800 homes rented from a landlord or letting agency are so cold they are officially a health hazard, with a bottom-of-the-scale energy efficiency rating of F or G.

It comes as Friends of the Earth and more than 35 organisations, including Crisis, Citizens Advice and Age UK, call for legislation in the UK’s Government’s new Energy Bill making it an offence for landlords to re-let the coldest properties until they’re improved to a basic standard of energy efficiency.

Friends of the Earth’s Warm Homes Campaigner Dave Timms said “it’s shocking that people still have to put up with cold rented homes that make them sick and cost a fortune to heat – while the UK’s NHS spends millions every year that decent insulation could help avoid.”

“To stop vulnerable tenants’ health being a landlord lottery we need a new law to ensure the coldest properties are made warmer and cheaper to heat.”

“The UK Government’s new Energy Bill should make it illegal, from 2016, to re-let the worst rented properties until they’re improved to a minimum standard of energy efficiency.”

The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health’s Head of Policy David Kidney said “The £145 million that the coldest rented homes cost the NHS each year is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Our research shows homes rented from a landlord or letting agency are more likely to be poorly insulated and cold – we need Government action to make sure all rented properties meet a decent standard of energy efficiency.

“The new Energy Bill should give local authorities powers to step in to ensure landlords improve the worst homes – and tenants who file environmental health complaints need legal protection from being evicted.”

Useful statistics on rented homes in the UK:

  • Twenty percent of the 3.4 million households renting their home from a landlord or letting agency are in fuel poverty – meaning they can’t afford to heat their homes to a reasonable standard. In the worst-insulated properties 42 per cent of tenants suffer from fuel poverty.
  • Consumer Focus research shows more than 150,000 tenants could escape fuel poverty if a minimum energy-efficiency standard for the worst insulated rented homes was enforced.
  • Tenants living in the UK’s coldest, health-hazard homes could save £488 a year on fuel bills if they were improved to a basic standard of heating and insulation, according to Energy Saving Trust research.

Twenty-seven percent of the UK’s carbon emissions come from our homes – stopping them leaking heat is one of the cheapest and quickest ways to  fight dangerous climate change.

In its joint statement, the coalition of organisations calling for the new law says “without greater Government action, poorly insulated and inefficiently heated private rented homes will continue to cost the UK dearly in terms of carbon emissions, poor health, fuel poverty and high energy bills.”

And 171 MPs have signed a parliamentary petition [Early Day Motion 653] backing a new law to improve cold rented homes to a minimum standard of energy efficiency.

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