Hopefully, 2017 started well for you but the high volume of emails from renters wanting to know more about their rights in difficult circumstances strongly suggests that a lot of us are living through hard times. Cold homes are a particular problem. Read on to learn more about your rights to a warm home. And there’s a last-minute invitation to the Age UK Older Renters’ Conference tomorrow.
If you can’t make it but wish to contribute your views or your story to the Age UK project, please consider contributing to our Older Renters’ Voices project – drop me an email for more details.
We’ve been working with Age UK London, to investigate and campaign for older private renters, since last Summer. Currently, there are close to 150,000 private renters aged over 50 in London. As well as supporting existing needs, the Older Renters’ Project works to ensure that the wisdom of older renters’ experience informs present and future policy. After all, even more older people in London are likely to be private sector tenants in future.
Among all age groups, private renting is too often linked to problems like lack of security, fast rising rents and poor quality homes. As we grow older, these problems become ever less tolerable and even more urgent.
On the afternoon of Tuesday 24th January, the Older Renters’ Conference will debate the issues with invited expert speakers and policy makers. Confirmed speakers include Seb Klier (London Policy Officer at Generation Rent) and all renters over 50 are warmly invited to join us on the day.
I‘m so very sorry about the short notice for this invitation. I’d intended to get the newsletter to you before the weekend but it didn’t happen.If you’d like to join the Older Private Renters’ Conference, tickets are free but registration is essential >> Register to attend
There’s Cold Comfort on Heating Control But Don’t Let That Make You Sick
Two emails in quick succession, from renters on opposite sides of town, made it plain that the problem of cold homes is widespread. In one case, rent paid is inclusive of utility bills. This renter’s landlord complained that the bills were too high. He turned down the thermostat in the property and installed a lock to prevent the tenants from turning the heat back up.
Unfortunately, the landlord is not doing anything illegal by restricting use of the heating. Recommended room temperatures in bedrooms should reach 18 Degrees Celsius, though, and 21 Degrees Celsius in sitting rooms. If the property actually feels to cold to live in, the renter should contact the Environmental Health department of her local council, to ask for an assessment of the conditions in the property under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
The second email came from a couple paying their own electricity bill. The heater provided by the managing agent is very expensive to run and inadequate for heating their studio flat to even 15 Degrees Celsius, which is definitely too cold.
However, although landlords must provide “adequate provision for heating”, shockingly, that provision can be as minimal as an electrical socket. Perhaps the heater provided by the managing agent is insufficient but a more efficient heater would do the job – they would have to invest in a heater to find out.
Their bathroom is even colder, though, and there’s mould growing on the ceiling. The pair have both been suffering from bad coughs and breathing difficulties for too long now. Both feel sure that the mould is making them ill. They could well be right. Mould can be classed as a Category 1 hazard. That is, a hazard which poses a serious threat to the health of the occupants or their visitors.
It may be that the excessive cold and mould in this flat arise from a structural fault. If so, the landlord will be obliged to take action to remedy the problem. Again, the local council are the people to contact. Whatever the cause, these two should contact their local council.
Before contacting the council, it’s wise to gather as much hard evidence as you can. Photographs of the problem will support your case, as will copies of any correspondence with the landlord/agent. If the condition of your home has caused or aggravated a health issue, ask your GP Surgery for a letter to confirm details of the problem.
If your local authority offers you excuses instead of help when you contact them, please do tell Renters’ Rights London about it.