Terraced housing

BLOG: New project to help create warmer homes for poorest in Liverpool

Louise Harford, Liverpool City Council’s Head of Private Sector Housing explains why a small project to improve energy efficiency in private rented homes could make a BIG difference to the poorest households in the city…

Anyone who has met me knows how passionate I am about improving the life chances of our citizens in our wonderful city.

Everyone deserves to live in a safe and well-managed home that is free from hazards.

We know from delivering a successful city-wide selective licensing scheme that there are many good landlords in our city, and that keeping up with the raft of legislative changes is no easy task – so we are here to help.

There has been a huge increase in the private rented sector in Liverpool over the last 20 years, with nearly a third of all houses here now privately rented – and that brings about challenges.

Unfortunately, a proportion of these homes are poorly managed and as a result are in poor condition which, in turn, impacts on the health and well-being of the occupiers.

This is not only to the detriment of the residents but also to the local neighbourhoods; it also impacts upon landlords with turnover in tenants and rise in complaints.

Row of Victorian terrace houses in Liverpool, England

Poor housing is linked directly to health and life chances, with a brand new report ‘The Cost of Poor Housing in England’ stating that excess cold costs the NHS £857 million per year to offset the issues arising from cold homes.

Our service deals with nearly 5,000 referrals each year about properties. There is no sign of this demand letting up especially with winter coming up; landlords play a key part of keeping their tenants safe and well.

The economic downturn and Covid-19 pandemic have unfortunately highlighted once more the stark inequalities in people’s living conditions in Liverpool affecting their health and well-being.

One of these inequalities is around fuel poverty. In Liverpool, a lot of our housing stock (particularly in the private rented sector) is pre 1920’s and therefore not as energy efficient as it could be.

As many as 20 per cent of houses are at or below the minimum energy efficiency rating of E.

Properties rated F or G can cost 3 times as much to heat than higher rated properties and are often occupied by low income families suffering from other vulnerabilities.

Under the current regulations, all rental properties should be at a minimum E rating on the energy performance certificate (EPC).

We have been successful in being awarded some funding from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to educate staff and landlords as well as tenants about what is expected of a private rented property, and undertake enforcement action where required using our intelligence-led approach to target the very worst properties.

If landlords and managing agents engage positively, they can take action to improve the property and work with tenants. We would encourage landlords to sign up and attend our free webinar on Monday 29 November for more information.

Tackling poor housing contributes to our Covid-19 recovery pledges and our ambitious City Plan, breaking down those inequalities, ensuring our citizens live and age well and live in safe and thriving neighbourhoods.

So whether it is the recent COP26 agenda, helping to deliver council objectives or simply making living conditions better for our residents and reduce their energy bills, the project comes at the best time.

So far we have have written twice to the owners of over 300 properties about actions that are needed in F and G rated properties – the very worst and non-compliant properties which our analysis shows are in every council ward.

We will be following up with enforcement action shortly which may lead to fines and, under this legislation, could lead to details of breaches being published online on the PRS Exemptions Register.

ALL Landlords should be taking action NOW either to provide evidence of an improved property, seek funding (which is available), work with tenants or claim a statutory exemption. Tenants also need to know their rights and should have an up to date EPC in their tenant information pack.

In this engagement phase, we want to raise awareness and particularly to reach out to many residents in the wards which are most affected – Anfield, County, Kensington, Kirkdale, Picton, Princes Park, Tuebrook and Wavertree and other stakeholders including community and third sector groups and advice agencies that help people.

We will be completing our project in March 2022 – but beyond that our key outcome is to embed our learning about energy requirements in the private rented sector across our organisation, our partners and beyond.

How to find out more

Further information is available at www.liverpool.gov.uk/mees and the project team can be emailed at MEES@liverpool.gov.uk

Liverpool Waterfront