Council wins significant ruling on affordable heating

Liverpool City Council has been successful in a ruling on affordable heating. The tribunal heard that a private landlord had breached health and safety rules installing a heating system that was deemed too expensive for the tenant to use.

A cabinet member for housing for Liverpool City Council explains:

“This is a very significant ruling. Fuel poverty is a real issue in the city and it has now been firmly established that landlords cannot rely on inefficient and expensive heating for tenants. 

‘This decision will have nationwide repercussions and will be welcomed by tenants throughout the country.”

The landlord, Mr Anwar Hadi Kassim was initially issued an enforcement notice after environmental health officers deemed that, because the tenants were unable to afford adequate heating, his rental property was a severe threat to health and safety.

As a result of the notice, Mr Kassim was required to replace the existing panel convector heaters and a towel rail with cheaper gas central heating or fan assisted storage heating. However, in March 2011, Mr Kassim took the case to a residential property tribunal which ruled that there was no requirement for a heating system to be affordable.

After an appeal by the council, the decision was overturned and ordered to be heard again by another residential property tribunal which ruled in favour of the council.

By using data from the Office of National Statistics, the council were able to successfully argue that the tenants were likely to be in income poverty. This led to the tribunal agreeing that, under the Housing Act 2004, the current heating system at the flat resulted in a Category 1 hazard for excess cold.

Despite the obvious significance of this ruling, property tribunals do not set legal precedents, so it is unclear as to how common these outcomes will be.

Stephen Battersby, an environmental health and housing consultant at the Pro-Housing Alliance Group said:

‘I think it is important for other local authorities to take note of this case and how the evidence was assembled, although as a first-tier tribunal decision itself does not set a precedent.

‘At least this tribunal took account of the upper tribunal view which does set a precedent on the issue of affordability.’

BT                                                                             15.07.15

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