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Policy Briefing: Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

Despite the challenges facing the UK at the moment, new legislation that affects housing, landlords and tenants came into force on 20 March 2019. The new act requires landlords to ensure that properties are fit for human habitation before and during a tenancy.

What does this mean?

From an environmental perspective there are several areas of the new legislation. Some of the issues within the Act that increase the discomfort of residents and which reduce the sustainability of a property include:

  • Need for repairs
  • Freedom from damp
  • Ventilation
  • Water supply

What are the implications?

It is key that landlords take a proactive approach, not only to assessing their properties but to responding to tenant concerns. Issues such as damp have a dual impact on resident health, but also the longevity and health of the property itself.

Consider tenancy agreements – many landlords insist that clothing should not be dried on balconies for aesthetic reasons. However, damp clothes can be a major contributor to a property’s mould problem, therefore harming the property managed by the landlord. Tenancy agreements should reflect the difficulty of drying clothes in properties with no or little outdoor space.

Develop ventilation strategies – developing approaches to improve ventilation will not only assist resident health, but also deal with potential damp and mould issues within properties. Consider developing a hierarchy from natural ventilation to mechanical solutions that can be applied to the refurbishment and improvement of properties.

Identify opportunities – there are opportunities to be compliant, but also increase the sustainability of properties in the long term. Reducing damp risk by undertaking ventilation works could be completed alongside installing low cost water efficiency measures; moisture traps to deal with short term mould risk; low energy lighting to improve light levels; and radiator panels to improve the efficiency of heating. This ticks several boxes of compliance, building health and customer satisfaction.

Train staff – this can often be central to basic compliance. Although the majority of staff will be able to identify mould, the advice is often focused on dealing with the short term problem such as wiping the mould away. This does not deal with the real problem, and more training should be provided to staff to help identify the root cause of the problem, .i.e. could the problem be caused by behavioural issues like not ventilating the property adequately when drying clothes or is the problem as a result of the building fabric itself.

Bevan Jones, Environment and Sustainability Manager