Should Dangerously Cold Homes Be Illegal?


Image credit: Stuart Pilbrow, used under Creative Commons license.

Earlier this week I reported on how more Brits die from cold than Siberians, and the Government has previously faced court action for not tackling the issue of fuel poverty. Now a coalition of campaigners is stepping up the fight—calling on dangerously cold homes to be made illegal. After all, we have fire codes and compulsory carbon monoxide checks to prevent accidental deaths—why not mandate warmer homes too?Friends of the Earth's (FOE's) Warm Homes Campaign is increasing pressure on UK legislators to step up and take real action to protect the most vulnerable members of society from living in unnecessarily cold conditions. While homeowners have opportunities to benefit from cash grants, and long-term personal incentives to improve their homes' insulation and weatherization, a new report from Government watchdog Consumer Focus shows that it is often renters that bare the brunt of inadequately insulated homes, as the FOE campaign explains:

"The report shows that 40 per cent of the worst insulated properties could be improved for less than £1,500. These very cold, hard-to-heat homes are a serious health risk to people living in them. A recent poll for Friends of the Earth revealed tenants suffered most in the big freeze with half saying they felt uncomfortably cold at home. Houses rented from a landlord or lettings agency are the most likely to lack basics such as loft and cavity-wall insulation."

As George Monbiot argued earlier this week, this problem is only exacerbated by energy pricing that sees renters often paying more for prepay gas metering, as well as pricing structures that mean the first units of energy a household uses are often the most expensive.

Specifically, the FOE campaign, which has received backing from Manchester and Bristol City Councils, Age UK, Citizens Advice, Macmillan Cancer Support and housing charity Crisis, is calling on the Government to make it illegal to rent out dangerously cold homes by 2016. Just as we don't allow landlords to rent out homes that are fire-hazards, or car companies to sell vehicles with inadequate breaks, it's time we made sure all homes conform to a minimum safety standard when it comes to efficiency.

More on Warmer Homes and Fuel Poverty
Fuel Poverty in the UK: Government Faces Court Action
More Brits Die from Cold Than Siberians: Utilities and Government to Blame?
British PM Putting Unemployed to Work Insulating Attics

Tags: Economics | Energy Efficiency | Green Building | Poverty | United Kingdom

Best of TreeHugger