From 20th March 2019, Landlords letting damp properties can be sued by tenants under a new law passed under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 superseding the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
The new law is just one of many that have been introduced this year to even the playing field for renters forced to take up tenancies from private landlords due to the lack of social housing stock and unobtainable lending for would-be house buyers.
Offering more protection for renters, the new Damp laws and ‘fitness for human habitation’ policies will no doubt see a rise in housing standards across both social and private rented sectors in England.
What private landlords need to know about the new fitness for human habitation law.
Earlier this year, we saw changes to Section 21, as tenants were given protection from being evicted in response to complaining to their local council about dangerous and unfit homes. However, under the new FHH Act, tenants can sue their landlords without local authority confirmation.
With a record high of 4.5 million people renting property, the new reforms are welcomed as a way to stamp out unfit and dangerous homes rented out by landlords and agents.
But, although saying goodbye to Rackman-esque landlords, some landlords could in all possibility, fall foul of this law without any knowledge that their property has become unfit for human habitation.
Madalena Penny Founder of Southport Lettings Agency, ‘Penny
Joseph’ believes that not all unfit properties are reported to landlords or
“Of course, there are going to be tenants who refuse access for inspections. As a result, some tenants create unhealthy environments for themselves. If they do not ventilate the property properly, or adopt a habit of drying clothes indoors on radiators, condensation and moisture can build up, causing damp walls and create an unfit place to live. Obviously, this is no fault of the landlord or agent and hopefully any court being used for inappropriate litigation on behalf of a tenant will see this.”
But how can a landlord be sure that tenants are upholding their side of the tenancy, and how can a landlord know if damp is created by bad ventilation and not through building problems?
“It’s important that a thorough inspection is undertaken before the tenancy has begun, and that the tenant is present during the inspection and signs the inventory. Under the new dampness habitation law, it would be wise for landlords and agents to have a sheet outlining damp preventing tips for tenants. Having tenants sign a declaration stating their responsibility for good ventilation in properties would be wise and could be signed for at the outset of the tenancy along with their ‘How to Rent’ guide. I would also advise landlords to keep copies of all letters regarding tenant inspections and correspondence regarding property problems, as they can be used as proof of repair and maintenance in court,” said Ms. Penny.
Other issues that can cause a property to be classed as unfit are:
- Asbestos & MMF
- Overcrowding & Space;
- Water supply;
- Electrical hazards;
- Carbon Monoxide & Combustion products;
- Damp & Mould growth;
- Drainage & Sanitary issues;
- Food Preparation & Hygiene.
Tips to Prevent Damp in Homes
Ideally, double glazing, loft and wall insulation can reduce the chance of damp considerably. If you consider that four people living together create 112 pints of moisture in just one week through everyday living, damp can build up quickly, especially in climates such as the UK. But, there are some tips to reduce the chance of damp getting a foothold in your property.
- Ensure home is warm;
- Ensure tumble dryers and washing machines are vented correctly.
- If you can’t dry clothes outside, dry them in the bathroom and ensure the door is closed and windows are open;
- In much used rooms, such as the living room, ensure that windows are opened at least once a day;
- Ventilate kitchens and bathrooms when in use. Always use an extractor hood in kitchen if one is supplied. It’s important to keep extractor fan running even after you have finished cooking in the kitchen, as moisture is still being dispersed;
- Wipe down cold surfaces, such as tiles in bathroom and kitchen to reduce condensation;