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Sub-standard rental property can result in landlords facing a judge in court and being ordered to pay significant fines, not to mention the loss of rental income and expensive property repairs. Recently, legislation has been introduced to crack down on those landlords who continue to rent out below-par properties. Although the vast majority of tenants are satisfied with their property standards, there are still in excess of 1 million poorly maintained rental homes in the UK.

It is essential that landlords ensure regular and thorough property inspections on all of their properties and take the necessary action in a timely manner. Landlords have always been obliged to maintain their rental properties but the new law takes things a step further. Tenants now have the opportunity to hold their landlords to account if they are living in sub-standard accommodation.

Sub-standard rental property – by definition

A property would be deemed unfit for human habitation if it falls seriously short in any one of the following areas: internal arrangement, natural lighting, food preparation and disposal of waste facilities, ventilation, drainage and sanitary conditions, damp, water supply, stability, repairs, or any other of the 29 prescribed hazards.

New energy efficiency rules have now been introduced and failing to meet these new standards can cause the property to be classed as substandard. All rental properties must have an Energy performance certificate (EPC). Energy efficiency ratings range from A-G – A being the most efficient and G the least efficient – and the new regulations means that properties must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of between A and E, anything below and the property is considered substandard.

Landlords face the wrath of empowered tenants 

The new legislation provides a tenant with the ability to hold their landlord to account for the condition of their property. If a tenant believes the property is not habitable or below standard, they can report their property to the Council which is duty bound by law to inspect the property for all 29 Hazards in the HHSRS (Housing Health & Safety Rating System).

When tenants raise issues, this will trigger an assessment. A property is only deemed unfit if it is so significantly deficient in one or more key respects that it cannot reasonably be deemed to be suitable for occupation in its present condition. Expert evidence can be provided by an independent environmental health practitioner or a surveyor which can subsequently be material in substantiating the issues and the landlord’s liability in cases of greater complexity. For simpler matters, for example the absence of effective heating, it should be possible for the court to make a determination on the basis of non-expert evidence from the tenant.

While the vast majority of landlords are already in compliance with the law, unfortunately there are some who fail to ensure that their tenants’ homes are indeed fit for habitation.

The cost of non-compliance

Council inspections can result in the landlord facing significant repair/renovation costs. Councils have the power to serve an Improvement Notice requiring the landlord to take remedial action and in more urgent situations it can take Emergency remedial action and carry out the works itself and charge the landlord. The ultimate sanction is for the Council to issue a Prohibition order to prevent people from living in the property.

Landlords who fail to meet the necessary requirements can find their properties sitting empty with the loss of rental income. Landlords who rent out properties that have an EPC rating of F or G will face financial penalties of up to £5,000 per property. Renting out a non-compliant property for less than 3 months will attract a fine of up to £2,000, whilst renting it out for more than 3 months could result in a fine of up to £4,000. In addition, providing false or misleading information on the PRS Exemptions Register or failing to comply with a compliance notice can attract further fines of £1,000 and £2,000 respectively.

Fines are applied to each property and to each breach, and additional penalties may be payable. The most important thing a Landlord can do? Regular Property Inspection!

Property inspections should be carried out ideally quarterly but at least every 6 months. As well as making sure the property complies with all legislation, it’s vital for landlords to ensure their investment is being protected by keeping it in good order. Responsible landlords will use such visits as an opportunity to repair any minor problems before they spiral into major repairs. Tenants tend to report serious issues, but many will not report minor issues until it is too late.

In addition, it is all too easy to be unaware of problems, such as damp. The tenant often becomes accustomed to it, but another person notices it as soon as they enter the property.

Proptech driving quality Property Inspections 

Property inspections are often seen by landlords as a chore but they need not be. With the advent of PropTech solutions such as the InventoryBase app, the entire process can be carried out as a timely, efficient and paperless manner. The innovative InventoryBase’s app enables landlords to remotely carry out a property inspection from anywhere. Reports are automatically compiled and instantly available and can record the condition of a range of items and diagnose maintenance issues, minimising travel and reducing costs. 

Key features help alleviate dispute management, provide pre-set templates, digital signatures and auto-embedded time and date stamped photographs and videos. Some of the biggest benefits of the digitisation of reports include complete communication trails, audit trails, easier dispute resolution and centralised data storage. 

Never before has it been easier for landlords to protect themselves from falling foul of legislation and maintaining the value of their investments. The cost of doing so can be enormous – trust in InventoryBase, backed up with well-conducted, thorough inspections and stay in control and out of court!

Our free guidance and information template available over on InventoryBase Academy,  is based on the Fitness For Human Habitation (FFHH) Act 2018; incorporating known understanding and available information.