On the 20th December 2018 the Fitness For Human Habitation Bill received Royal Assent and is therefore now enshrined in law.
The Bill revives a clause which already exists in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, requiring all rented homes to be ‘fit for human habitation’ at the start of the tenancy, and to remain so throughout. In determining whether a house is ‘unfit’, the Bill includes issues that were not covered by a landlord’s legal repair responsibilities, such as damp caused by design defects (lack of ventilation) rather than disrepair, and infestation (rodents, insects, bed bugs) and further adds to legal requirements already pre existing within the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) which was introduced by the Housing Act 2004 (in force since 2006).
Championed by Shelter; they said that the bill will help to improve property conditions for renters in both social housing and the private rented sector, and will give tenants a meaningful route to improve conditions, without relying on patchy local authority resources. This Bill has had cross-party support in both Parliament and by the Residential Landlords Association and National Landlord Association so it was inevitable that the bill would pass through the Parliamentary process with relative ease.
What does this actually mean for landlords?
Under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, landlords of both social and privately rented properties must make sure that their properties meet certain standards at the beginning and throughout a tenancy. If they fail to do this, tenants have the right to take legal action which includes fixed financial penalties of up to £30,000 and banning orders – possibly for life – for the most serious offenders so there is a real need to ensure each and every rental property (social or private) is safe.
This means that the 29 hazards will need to be assessed; a risk category assigned (where applicable) and then any remedial action to address those risks are implemented to ensure the safety of the tenant and their visitors.
The risks are:
- damp and mould growth
- excess cold
- excess heat
- asbestos and MMF
- presence of biocides
- carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
- presence of lead
- presence of radiation
- uncombusted fuel gas
- volatile organic compounds
- crowding and space
- entry by intruders
- inadequate natural lighting
- excessive exposure to noise
- domestic hygiene
- pests and refuse
- food safety
- sanitation and drainage problems
- water supply
- falls associated with baths
- falls on level surfaces
- falls associated with stairs and ramps
- falls between levels
- electrical hazards
- uncontrolled fire, flames, hot surfaces and materials
- collision and entrapment
- poor ergonomics
- structural collapse and falling elements
The risk categories are as follows:
Risk Category 1 : Hazard is that where the most serious harm outcome is identified, for example, death, permanent paralysis, permanent loss of consciousness, loss of a limb or serious fractures and therefore is best rectified immediately.
Risk Category 2 : Still a hazard needing remedying, although without the need for urgency albeit still needing correction at some time.
Risk Category 3 : Are those people who could be most affected by the hazard, and importantly, they do not have to be occupants of the property, they could also be any visitor exposed to the hazard.
NB: Government’s Operating Guidance document – Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) HHSRS Guidance.
How can InventoryBase help?
As part of our InventoryBase Academy initiative and based on current information; we have designed a template that mirrors all 29 risk categories. We have also developed an information table in an easy to read format that; explains both the hazard and risk, highlights those persons deemed most vulnerable / at risk, what the potential issues of each risk are, indicates the 3 risk category options, and offers example issues and actions.
By completing the template the landlord can have a better understanding of the condition of the property and take the most appropriate action to either remedy or minimise the risk.
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