Poverty and Inequality

15.11.17

‘Victorian’ housing laws ‘in a mess’, post-Grenfell study finds

Outdated housing laws are old, with variable enforcement, and in “desperate need” of reform, a report commissioned by influential charity Shelter has concluded.

The report, ‘Closing the gaps: Health and safety in the home,’ comes five months after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which killed at least 80 people in London’s Kensington borough.

Researchers from the universities of Bristol and Kent reviewed current housing laws and surveyed almost 1,000 people from the housing sector, including tenants and landlords. They concluded that the legal gaps within housing law don’t address modern concerns, with some statutes dating back to the Victorian era.

Consequently, current law treats tenants as a health and safety risk rather than consumers with enforceable rights.

The biggest change that tenants wanted to see was improved communications with the landlord, with many speaking of complaints and concerns being ignored – a common criticism from Grenfell residents. This concern was particularly prevalent amongst the elderly, disabled and those living in poverty.

The report stated that, whilst the official inquiry is still ongoing, failings in the law are “likely to be a contributing factor in the Grenfell tragedy.”

It called for changes to the law to enforce housing health and safety standards, place clear responsibilities on bodies for breaches of fire and building regulations, and to hold landlords and managers to account for fire safety provisions.

Professor David Cowan, of the University of Bristol Law School, said: “This research has demonstrated that the law regarding the state and condition of a property is in a mess. It doesn’t address modern concerns and its enforcement is piecemeal.

“In our view, the law needs to be reformed to protect the health and safety of all occupiers regardless of tenure, class, or the history of housing policy. 

“Such reforms will play a part in ensuring a tragedy like Grenfell should never be allowed to happen again.”

Chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, added: “The laws which are meant to protect people in their homes are inadequate and outdated, stretching back to the Victorian times.

“Grenfell highlighted many wider issues we need to address as a society, and it’s crucial that people in social housing now have stronger rights and a more powerful voice. But right now, some social landlords are unaccountable meaning many families living in poor conditions with no ability to change it.

“The government urgently needs to reform housing law, and an important step is supporting the ‘Fitness For Human Habitation Bill’ early next year.”

Top image: Ik Aldama, DPA, PA Images

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Council to spend £4m investigating senior officers who gave themselves 20% wage rise during pay freeze

14/12/2018Council to spend £4m investigating senior officers who gave themselves 20% wage rise during pay freeze

A council has agreed to allocate nearly an extra £250,000 to an investigation looking into alleged pay rises given to senior officers. ... more >
Government commissioner allows Wakefield Council to retain full control of services

14/12/2018Government commissioner allows Wakefield Council to retain full control of services

Almost four months after Ofsted inspectors identified “serious and widespread failures” across Wakefield’s children’s ser... more >
Fife Council scraps controversial P1 assessments despite harsh government opposition

14/12/2018Fife Council scraps controversial P1 assessments despite harsh government opposition

Fife Council has announced that it will be scrapping the controversial standardised P1 assessments at the end of the current academic year. ... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
Council to spend £4m investigating senior officers who gave themselves 20% wage rise during pay freeze

14/12/2018Council to spend £4m investigating senior officers who gave themselves 20% wage rise during pay freeze

A council has agreed to allocate nearly an extra £250,000 to an investigation looking into alleged pay rises given to senior officers. Labour, Plaid Cymru, and Independent members at C... more >
Government commissioner allows Wakefield Council to retain full control of services

14/12/2018Government commissioner allows Wakefield Council to retain full control of services

Almost four months after Ofsted inspectors identified “serious and widespread failures” across Wakefield’s children’s services, it has today been announced that the counci... more >

the raven's daily blog

Blog: 5 minutes with Gary Wallis-Clarke, member of the Northern Powerhouse Education and Skills Group

12/12/2018Blog: 5 minutes with Gary Wallis-Clarke, member of the Northern Powerhouse Education and Skills Group

Ahead of the upcoming networking extravaganza EvoNorth, we caught up with Gary Wallis-Clarke, a member of the Northern Powerhouse Education and Skills group, executive headteacher at West Jesmond Primary school, and its national leader of education. In our interview, Gary reveals what the Northern Powerhouse means to him and explains... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

The digital buying community is live

12/11/2018The digital buying community is live

Many of the requirements from buyers posted on the Digital Marketplace were either non-compliant or poorly worded, which resulted in challenges f... more >
A force to be reckoned with

12/11/2018A force to be reckoned with

The South Bank plan, which refers to a number of investments and proposed activities across a massive plot of land south of the River Aire, is on... more >
Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

12/11/2018Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

As councils across England struggle with their finances in the face of massive cuts from central government, Simon Edwards, director of the Count... more >
A two-speed England

05/11/2018A two-speed England

Central government needs to change its approach to local transport planning and investment, including by consolidating funding and maximising dev... more >

interviews

New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >
Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

26/09/2018Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has outlined her priorities for dealing with soaring demand of children’s services and social ... more >
Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

05/09/2018Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

Nottinghamshire County Council is considering proposals to scrap its current two-tier structure for a new unitary system in order to save on... more >

public sector focus

View all News