What is Excess Cold?
Out of the 29 identified risk categories under HHSRS (Housing Health Safety Rating System) this is one of the most important. A large number of properties achieve high scores in this hazard profile and it is poor heating that is believed to be a significant cause of death in the winter months. EHOs (Environmental Health Officers) therefore take this hazard extremely seriously and act decisively where it is identified.
The Operating guidance sets a high standard, requiring heating systems to be able to maintain a temperature of 21°C in living areas when the external temperature is 5°C. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some EHOs appear to have gone beyond this, requiring the higher standard of an internal temperature of 21°C when the external temperature is -1°C. The required actions set by EHOs usually include the installation, or radical improvement, of a central heating system. The Upper Tribunal has held that a heating system must be capable of heating a property at reasonable cost in order to satisfy the profile but it will accept that a less efficient system where the landlord is picking up the cost (because it is included in the rent) is acceptable and will take a wider view than many EHOs as to what is a reasonable system.
The objective is to improve properties at least to the average for properties in England. This is quite high when it comes to heating and insulation. Over 80% of dwellings have gas-fired central heating and over 70% have more than 100mm of loft insulation. Over 85% of dwellings have partial or full double glazing. Therefore landlords can expect EHOs to set fairly high standards in respect of heating and insulation, and they will have the data to support their position.