Housing Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 20th July 2004.

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Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips 2:30 pm, 20th July 2004

The housing health and safety rating system—I will not attempt to pronounce its acronym—is to operate in accordance with guidance to be published by the Government. At the moment, an unfinished draft known as version 2 is available. There are 29 proposed hazards including falls, fire, structural stability, crowding and space, radon gas, security and so on.

Where an assessment is required the environmental health officer will assess each category of risk on a structural basis to establish the likelihood of the risk occurring which could cause harm within the next 12 months and the range of outcomes from such harm. The spread of outcomes relate to the risk of death or injuries that require medical attention, by a GP or hospital.

This assessment is always based on the most vulnerable age group, if one exists, and is purely age related. Depending on the category of risk, the most vulnerable are either the very young or the elderly. The reason for this is that the only statistics that exist are age based.

Many properties which will be subject to the housing health and safety rating system assessment are not lived in by the very young or the very old. Indeed, most private, rented properties are occupied by students, young couples and young working people.

The guidance assessment process disregards characteristics relating to the actual or potential occupiers, except in one case; namely, crowding and space, where the number of occupants is taken into consideration.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that this is done as part of the evaluation process in all cases. No guidance is intended despite the structured approach in which the first two stages of the process are to be undertaken. There would therefore be no structured way of doing this.

The effect of not making this change will be to require unnecessary works to be undertaken to properties with the consequent costs involved. This will lead to higher rents or possibly encourage the landlord—for example, an owner of one or two properties in a student area—to sell up and so reduce the amount of accommodation available. I beg to move.