Ensuring fitness for human habitation.
Mould and damp are now referenced in a variety of acts. Governing how landlords manage repair and maintenance of their rental properties.
Private landlords are required to ensure that the home is fit for human habitation. Being at the start and during the tenancy. Under landlord and tenant act 1995, with “freedom from damp” listed as a condition.
This act was then amended by the homes (fitness for human habitation) act 2018.
This points to landlords to the housing health and safety rating system, commonly known as HHSRS. Outlining the 29 circumstances where a property can be deemed for unfit human habitation including damp and mould. It also sharers advice on how to determine the presence of those key hazards in the rental home.
The HHSRS assessment is not currently necessary for courts to decide if the home is fit for human habitation. However, local authorities can use it to identify those hazards and enforce action against landlords.
The Government want to create decent homes.
The Decent Homes Standard does not currently apply to private rented sector but will do soon under the rental reform bill with proposals that are being introduced to making them meet the standard legal obligation.
The standard refers to damp and mould as one of the hazard to identify through HHSRS. It also shares the rating system is not a standard in itself. It simply “concerned with avoiding or, at the very least, minimizing potential hazard”.
The Governments renters reform bill will ensure that homes in private rented sector are warm and dry and say its unacceptable for renters living in damp or mouldy homes.
How to keep a property fit for human habitation.
There is landlords guidance under the homes (fitness for human habitation) act 2018 that places obligation on landlords to keep structure and exterior of the property as well as service installation such as water supply in a good state of repair.
This also includes damp and mould issues that arise due to lack of maintenance or structural problems in a rented property. The landlord must take action to rectify these.
If tenants find an issue with the property that they believe makes it unfit for human habitation, they will notify the landlord or agent in writing. The landlord then needs to deal with the issue in a “reasonable amount of time” according to the acts guidance.
The guidance suggests landlords wont need to remedy unfitness if it is caused by tenant behaviour. Ie damp causing mould through poor ventilation.
The tenant needs to ensure they adequately heat and ventilate the property to avoid damp building up and causing mould.
There is more guidance to come.
We understand the Government is currently viewing the HHSRS. There are a lot of reports that suggest that local authorities are inspecting rented properties who will be formally instructed to view the occupants behaviour when deciding to take action against the landlord on allegations on dangerous conditions.
Various MP’s have called for the Decent Homes Standard to make the obligation on landlords around damp and mould more explicit. The private renters ombudsman has outlined in the renters reform bill is expected to oversee tenants complaints in future to include those relates to mould and damp.
Additionally, ministers have also promised a lot more guidance on damp and mould in rented homes by the summer of 2023. This will mean clarity and potential change on the horizon for letting agents and landlords. We will keep you updated.
Mark Harrington proprietor to Harringtons Lettings