Campaigners at the Central Office of Public Interest (COPI) have released a stark air pollution study. It reveals dangerously high levels of contamination at almost eight million UK addresses. As a result they are lobbying estate agencies and property listing sites. They want a mandatory disclosure of air quality ratings in the information provided to potential buyers.
The first nationwide study of air quality was conducted by Imperial College London after a commission by COPI. It enables members of the public to visit www.addresspollution.org in order to search their postcode and check air pollution levels in their location. A quarter of homes are currently in areas with dangerous levels of pollution.
The website reports on three air pollutants. There are fine particles known as PM2.5, larger particles called PM10 and the gas NO2 which are mainly emitted in built up areas by diesel vehicles. Properties are given one of five air quality ratings. Low is allocated when all monitored pollutants are at least 80 per cent below World Health Organisation’s (WHO) limits. Very high is assigned to those in which every pollutant is in excess of the limits and one is at least 20% over its limit. Humphrey Milles, founder of COPI, called air pollution “a dangerous, invisible killer” that can affect everyone.
COPI has also obtained legal opinion that claims estate agents should be making buyers aware if the air outside a home is in excess of at least one of the WHO recommended limits. According to their legal consultation they could potentially be in breach of The Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 if they fail to provide a health warning. Surveyors and solicitors may have similar requirement to warn of the threat. There are also noises being made in some quarters regarding the need for a Clean Air Act to help reduce pollution to below WHO limits.
Property Ombudsman, Rebecca Marsh, impartially reviews complaints made by members of the public against agents. It is her opinion in regards to air pollution data that: “Arguably, this is material information that all sellers or landlords should be providing to buyers or tenants.”
A number of trade organisations, bodies and businesses are now listing air pollution in their property information. It is being viewed as a similar issue to the likes of: asbestos, ASBO’s and subsidence in being that it is highly relevant to the buyer’s decision making process.
Although there is clearly great merit to this initiative many property owners and landlords will no doubt view it as another piece of red tape to contend with. Though they have very little ability to affect air quality levels in the area their property is based, they may well find the rating it receives impacting on its desirability. However, the majority of urban properties will be listed in danger zones, so at least their competition will be in the same situation.