Is your council house making you ill?
As we ease ourselves out of lockdown and our communities are starting to come together to face normality, one thing has become very clear – our homes are our safe space. It is where we seek refuge and feel safe in a familiar and comfortable environment. Our homes are places where we can relax and unwind from the stresses and strains of everyday life. Ultimately, our homes are places essential to feeling revitalized and healthy, so what if the place you are supposed to see as your haven is making you ill?
Council and housing associations have seen an increase in the frequency of housing disrepair claims by up to 400%. Although this percentage may seem like an unprecedented surge, it is ultimately unsurprising given that 1 in 5 homes across the UK failed to meet the governments ‘Decent Homes Standard’. The Decent Homes Standard demands that a home but be in a reasonable state of repair, have reasonably modern facilities and provide tenants with a reasonable degree of thermal comfort. In 2019, 13% of social housing did not meet the statutory minimum standard.
A clean, hygienic living environment is a key factor in sustaining and improving your health and wellbeing. We want to share some indicators which will help you identify the early signs of housing disrepair and potential hazards to ensure that you can report them quickly and get them fixed to protect your wellbeing.
Government Indicators of Housing Disrepair:
Damp & Mould Issues
There are many causes of damp and mould, and these are often associated with the structure of your home. This often requires far more work than the easy and frequently suggested fix of cleaning and redecorating over the problem. If not tackled, damp and mould can cause respiratory problems and infections as well as affect the immune system of vulnerable people, particularly young children.
A cold home is one that cannot be economically maintained at the between the temperatures 18°C to 21°C. This puts tenants at risk of flu and pneumonia; heart attacks or strokes, hypothermia and in some cases can be fatal
Likewise, a house that is too hot has health implications, with the potential to cause dehydration, stroke and heart attacks, as well as breathing difficulties. The most vulnerable the excess heat is the elderly.
Asbestos was a commonly used building material in the 1950s and 1960s. Although the materials are generally safe when in good condition, if they are damaged, they release fibres into the air that can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Pesticides and other chemicals have been used to treat timber mould growth and pests but can also have negative implications on respiratory health.
Carbon Monoxide can be highly toxic and cause nausea, bronchitis, and asphyxiation.
Lead from paint or pipes can potentially cause nervous disorders as well as behavioural problems in children.
Gas leaks from cookers or heaters can cause suffocation and explosion. Ensure that all appliances are properly installed and maintained and that your landlord has an annual gas safety check carried out.
Crowding leads to a risk of infections, accidents and the spread of contagious diseases. Tenants are entitled to adequate space in living rooms, kitchens and other recreational space.
Risk of Intruders
The fear of entry by intruders can cause high levels of stress when the property is not adequately secured against unauthorized entry. This includes broken locks to windows and doors.
Lack of Light
Insufficient lighting can cause depression and vitamin D deficiency.
Noise caused by poor sound insulation allows penetration of excessive levels of noise causing sleep disturbance. Further problems that arise from this are poor concentration, headaches and anxiety
Poor Hygiene Standards
Poor Hygiene, refuse and pests can lead to infection and diseases. As a tenant your property should be free from cracks and holes which would allow the entry of pests.
You should also be entitled to the provision of an adequate water supply including drinking water from the main supply.
Prone to Accidents
Falling is a common hazard and is often associated with baths, showers, trip hazards, low windows, and stairs. Elderly people are most vulnerable to these hazards which may cause physical injuries including fractures or brain and head injuries.
Faulty wiring and old sockets are a high risk and can cause electric shocks and, in some cases, be fatal. Installation of electrics should be safe and in a good state of repair.
Cookers and heaters should be situated away from flammable materials in a safe position. This will reduce the risks caused by flames and hot surfaces. Children are particularly vulnerable to fire hazards.
A poorly maintained property can lead to explosions, entrapment, and structural collapse. There is a serious risk of physical injury if such an event were to take place. Identify whether your roof looks as if it is in a good state of repair, and if there are any lose tiles or leaking or damaged guttering.
Amenities such as baths, sinks, windows and worktops should be properly positioned as to avoid the risk of strains and sprains.
If you have identified these hazards in your home and you are being ignored by the council or your housing association, please get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can help you. These indicators of housing disrepair have serious implications on your health and wellbeing. Your home is your haven, your safe space. You should never feel afraid for you and your family’s wellbeing and safety under your own roof.