Update housing law to prevent another Grenfell, campaigners urge

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Nov 15, 2017
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Neglected laws and deregulation were likely to have played a part in the Grenfell tower block fire, a report from Shelter said

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Housing laws are “outdated, complex and patchily enforced”, a leading homeless charity said yesterday as it called for legislation in response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

A report from Shelter claims that failings in health and safety law were likely to have contributed to the disaster at the west London tower block last June in which at least 80 people died. 

Researchers at the University of Bristol and University of Kent reviewed existing laws and surveyed almost 1,000 people with a role in the housing sector, including tenants and landlords. They found that 85 per cent of respondents said that health and safety law “is not fit for purpose, after years of neglect and deregulation”. 

According to the researchers, “outdated laws” have left social housing landlords “unpoliced, unaccountable and free to ignore their tenants. Far too many families in social housing are left living in awful conditions and sometimes in outright danger because of this”.

David Cowan, a professor at the University of Bristol law school, said: “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.”

Researchers suggest that a new Housing (Health and Safety in the Home) Act should consolidate and update existing law, with a particular emphasis on the responsibility of local authorities to enforce health and safety standards. The law should require that all guidance relating to health and safety in the home is updated every three years. Campaigners also say that occupiers should have clearer routes for holding landlords and managers to account over fire safety regulations.

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