New legislation, which has enshrined the rights of tenants to improved standards of housing, has come with a stark warning to social landlords, who will now have to make improvements in order to keep up.
No renter wants to live with a faulty boiler, broken oven or leaky tap in their home for long. However, there was previously no means of recourse for tenants should these problems become more severe, or when an issue with their rental property becomes so serious that they can longer continue living in the home.
That was until a new piece of legislation from the government aimed to solve this, ensuring that landlords across the country are held accountable for the standards and condition of the properties which they let out. In addition to this, the law also strengthened the routes for redress for tenants, if the property they rent does not meet a suitable standard.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act began as a private member’s bill, and was initiated by Karen Buck, a Labour MP. It was given Royal Assent on the 20th December 2018, and then came into force just three months later, on 20th March 2019. The legislation revives a clause which previously existed within the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act, which required that all rental properties must be fit for human living at the beginning of a tenancy, and throughout. However, the new law updated the previous Act in order to fully cover modern homes and current rent values.
The list of issues which could potentially render a property uninhabitable include poor ventilation and inadequate natural lighting, excessive heat or cold, inadequate provisions for the preparation of food and disposal of waste, pests, poor sanitation facilities, and mould and damp.
From March 2019, these rules were applicable to new tenancies only, but from 2020, the rules will also cover existing tenancies. So how could this Act impact the strategies for maintenance and repairs for housing associations? And will social housing meet these new standards?
Some housing associations are reportedly taking proactive approaches in considering their housing stock. However, the true scale of uninhabitable housing could be widespread in the sector. According to data from the 2015 – 16 English Housing Survey, 244,122 social housing properties contained a Category 1 hazard as defined by the HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System). This is defined as an immediate and serious risk to a person’s safety and health, and it is therefore assumed that some of these homes will be unable to comply with this new legislation.
Experts claim that it will not be merely old properties that will fail the standards. Many new builds are predicted to suffer from these issues, as they have been constructed to meet energy efficiency standards but are not adequately ventilated, and will therefore be prone to mould and damp.
Some experts are also warning of a bombardment of claims against councils and housing associations as a growing number of claims for housing and a declining amount of resources and funds will mean that they cannot effectively manage these claims.
To efficiently complete risk assessments, inventory reports and tenant check in and check out, consider property management software, trying out an inventory base login, for example. Software solutions make the resolution and management of maintenance issues more effective and efficient.
However, others have argued that housing associations are already obligated under the Decent Homes Standard and other existing legislation for health and safety, to ensure that they provide safe housing for tenants. This means that councils and housing associations will not have to change the methods in which they undertake maintenance and repairs.
It is expected that this legislation will have a great impact for tenants, and is an opportunity for businesses to conduct internal checks on their processes, and the way that maintenance and repairs are managed.
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