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According to new research by German institute by Fraunhofer IBP, respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), are being caused by 84 million damp European homes.

Source: http://blueandgreentomorrow.com/news/damp-homes-pose-health-risk-millions-uk/

European governments’ expenditures on asthma and COPD in terms of hospitalisation, loss of productivity and medical treatment amounts to 82 billion Euros each year, according to the research.

In light of the findings, the VELUX Group is calling for healthier homes to be a central consideration for the new European framework for national building legislations, which will affect UK house builders once implemented.
The research from Fraunhofer IBP, reveals the socio-economic costs of asthma and COPD, which are proven effects also of living in damp and unhealthy buildings. The costs are 82 billion Euros annually, covering European governments’ direct expenses on medical treatment and additional care for patients in- and outside of hospitals, as well as indirect costs due to loss of productivity.

The study also reveals that close to 84 million Europeans live in damp or mouldy dwellings, which increases their risk of having respiratory diseases and life-long allergies by 40%. This proves the number of people living in unhealthy buildings remains an issue, despite recent awareness of the correlation between indoor environment and human health.

“We are convinced that the development of respiratory illnesses as a result of damp buildings can be reduced, and it is now clearer than ever that the legal framework for buildings needs to support healthy indoor climates in new and existing buildings. This way, human lives could be improved, and it is also good for the economy too,” says Grant Sneddon, Product Manager at VELUX® GBI.

Sneddon points to the upcoming revision of Energy Performance of Buildings Directives, EPBD, under the Energy Union, where the framework for national building legislations will be set.

“It is a big concern to see that very many people spend their everyday lives in damp and unhealthy homes. What is more, the new research reveals for the first time that 2.2 million citizens have asthma directly because they live in unhealthy buildings,” says Prof. Dr. Gunnar Grün, head of department for energy efficiency and indoor climate at Fraunhofer IBP.

Fraunhofer’s research, based on a cross-sectional study, questionnaires and in-depth case studies across 32 European countries, estimates that the number of Europeans living in damp and unhealthy dwellings could be reduced by 50% by 2050, which could reduce the number of people with associated respiratory diseases by 25%. In the case of asthma, this could lead to a reduction of 550,000 people.

How to prevent dampness in homes

According to the Fraunhofer institute dampness is one of the main defects in buildings across Europe, primarily caused by inadequate building structures and home owners’ lack of attention to ventilate sufficiently. As a consequence, mould is likely to grow, however the risk of this can be reduced significantly by choosing the right building fabrics during renovations.

In April 2016 the VELUX Group completed the RenovActive project in Belgium, a home renovation based on Active House principles focusing on the building’s architectural quality, human health, comfort and well-being, energy efficiency, and environmental benefits.

A key element in the modernization is the prevention of indoor dampness and mould, which is ensured by a natural and continuous airflow in the house. Read more about RenovActive by clicking here.

The Fraunhofer IBP white paper, ‘Towards an identification of European indoor environments’ impact on health and performance,’ is now available on
https://www.ibp.fraunhofer.de/content/dam/ibp/de/documents/Presseinformationen/Velux-Prestudy_WhitePaper_141205_amended.pdf

LANDLORD ORDERED TO PAY FORMER TENANT OVER £48,000 IN HOUSING DISREPAIR CLAIM

Williamson -v- Khan, Birmingham County Court 29th April 2015.

In a case which could not be brought today as a result of the restrictions to the scope of Legal Aid in April 2013, a vulnerable tenant has been awarded over £48,000 in damages and interest against her former landlord.

The judge decided that the landlord blatantly failed to carry out his obligation to repair her home. The judge found that she lived in “appalling conditions” for 10 ½ years, including:

  • No hot water for periods totalling almost 6 years
  • Inadequate and defective heating throughout the 10 ½ year tenancy
  • Rising and penetrating damp
  • Leaks from internal pipes
  • Rat infestation as a result of defects in the structure of the property
  • Defective plasterwork
  • Holes in the floorboards
  • Foul odours due to drainage problems.

His honour Judge Lopez, who heard the case at Birmingham County Court, found that the Claimant, Paula Williamson,  despite her poor start in life and her many problems, was persuasive, plausible and truthful.  He found that the landlord, Adalat Khan, gave a false account of events with the clear intention of  deceiving the Court, and in so doing subjected the character of Ms Williamson to a vicious and sustained attack.

Under cross examination by Zia Nabi, of Doughty Street Chambers, instructed by Mike McIlvaney of CLP, Adalat Khan was forced to accept that:

  • Rather than the 25 properties he had alleged he owned, the number was closer to 71 -81
  • He was expelled from the Midland Landlord Accreditation Scheme in April 2014 as a result his inaction over an improvement notice [served by the Local Authority]
  • He had twice been prosecuted, once for failing to provide adequate fire safety precautions for the tenants of one of his properties for which he was fined £1700
  • In December 2010 he was issued with a Notice by the Health and Safety Executive in respect of another of his properties over gas safety issues
  • One of his tenants had died only three months earlier as a result of fire related causes

The Judge observed that obtaining a straight and honest answer from Adalat Khan was as difficult as pulling teeth.

Ms Williamson was first referred to CLP by her support worker shortly before she was due to be evicted following s21 proceedings, seeking advice in relation to homelessness. As time was short, an expert report was urgently commissioned and Mike McIlvaney visited Ms Williamson in her home to take photographs of the conditions.  The judge said that these photographs illustrated the appalling conditions “far more graphically than the descriptions of the Claimant or Mr Wheeler” (the expert).

Following service of a letter before claim, Legal Aid was granted and proceedings were issued against Mr Khan for damages pursuant to s11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. As Ms Williamson had been evicted, the claim was for damages only. Had Ms Williamson consulted us just a few months later, her claim could not have proceeded as “damages only” disrepair claims were removed from the scope of Legal Aid in April 2013 by the government’s savage legal aid cuts. Today vulnerable tenants will go uncompensated, and landlords who show such callous disregard for their obligations to their tenants, such as Mr Khan, will get off scot free. As costs have been awarded against Mr Khan the case will ultimately cost the taxpayer nothing, but it could not have been brought without the underwriting provided by a Legal Aid Certificate.

Compensation was awarded for the full 10 ½ years of the tenancy. The Defence and Counterclaim did not plead limitation as at the date of the trial, and an application to amend to plead limitation made without notice on the morning of the trial was dismissed.

HHJ Lopez refused Mr Khan’s application for permission to appeal.

Congratulations to all those involved, to the lawyers  Mike McIlvaney and  Zia Nabi, and especially to Ms Williamson for her  bravery in the face of vicious calumny.

Mr Khan owns, rents, and/or manages properties in Birmingham, especially in the Moseley area, both in his individual capacity and through companies such as Maplewood Residential. http://www.maplewoodresidential.co.uk/

Cwmbran residents win battle with Bron Afon homes over £280,000 repair bill

Source: http://m.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11501371.Cwmbran_residents_win_battle_with_Bron_Afon_homes_over__pound_280_000_repair_bill/

RESIDENTS of a Cwmbran tower block will not have to foot a £285,000 bill for external wall insulation (EWI) demanded by a Torfaen housing association, after a tribunal ruled in their favour.

Leaseholders of flats in the town’s Monmouth House were asked in 2012 by Bron Afon Community Housing to pay hefty bills for repairs to the property, including the aforementioned sum.

Lessees were asked to pay a contribution of between £11,129.47 and £27,823.67 depending on the size of their flats, the effect being to put some into negative equity.

They disputed the charge for EWI, claiming that – unlike the other work, which included a new roof and windows – this was not a repair to the building, but an improvement, which under the terms of their leases, they did not not have to fund.

Now, a leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT) has determined that they are right, reducing their overall bills by around 35 per cent.

Thirty-five of the 56 flats in Monmouth House are leased by Bron Afon, with the remaining 21 being privately owned.

Leaseholders have welcomed the decision, but say the issue has been emotionally draining for many, and others will face similar battles in the future.

One of their number, Keith James, said the case has caused “three years of psychological trauma for the leaseholders.”

“Monmouth House leaseholders, despite the very considerable legal costs they incurred, have some satisfaction in that justice has been done,” he said.

“It is a matter of regret however, and a failure of the political system that at present, every individual case will have to be fought, when the problem is a general one – that registered social landlords are or feel pressured by the Welsh Government to make immediate improvements that are unanticipated and cannot be afforded by leaseholders.”

Another leaseholder Dave Shorthouse, who rents out his Monmouth House flat, said tenants will face further bills for other works, including windows, which will be challenged by the leaseholder accordingly.

The tribunal result comes against a background of law change on the issue elsewhere.

Earlier this year, ‘Florrie’s Law’ was introduced in England, restricting the amount councils and housing bodies can charge leaseholders (to £10,000 and £15,000 in London) for major repair, maintenance, or improvement works when these involve government funding.

Bron Afon has accepted the tribunal’s ruling. Director of property Dave Sharman said Monmouth House leaseholders have now been sent revised individual bills.

“The legal definition of ‘repairs’ and ‘improvements’ has never been clear and there is conflicting case law,” he said.

“Leaseholders in Monmouth House will not have to pay for the external wall insulation work we did to the building.”

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