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What issues can cause a property to be classed unfit under new law?

The new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 will be introduced from tomorrow giving tenants the tenants the right to sue landlords who fail to adequately maintain their properties.

The Act, which is actually an update to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, will cover all tenancies of less than seven years in length, which covers the majority.

The new law is designed to prevent tenants having to put up with unsafe or unsanitary conditions, such as damp, poor ventilation, lack of natural light and blocked drains.

So what issues can cause a property to be classed as unfit?

They are:

Asbestos & MMF

Lead

Overcrowding & Space;

Lighting;

Noise;

Water supply;

Instability;

Electrical hazards;

Carbon Monoxide & Combustion products;

Damp & Mould growth;

Drainage & Sanitary issues;

Food Preparation & Hygiene.

Madalena Penny, founder of Penny Joseph letting agents, based in Southport, believes that not all unfit properties are reported to landlords or agents.

She said: “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?

Penny continued: “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.”

Poll: Do you agree with the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

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    Only the most undesirable tenants would move into a property with existing problems. Most problems are caused by tenants' life styles. I have a clause in my leases about adequate heating and ventilation, which prevents damp and mould. Another clause is about promptly reporting problems for early resolution.

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    Possession Friend has been warning of the inherent dangers in this loosely and poorly worded piece of Labour, pro-tenant legislation.
    The FFHH reverses the position of renting property that is Unfit, by defining what a premises has to satisfy to be 'Fit' ( If its not, well Fit, the courts have to decide if its Unfit ! )
    The author, Giles Peaker is 'confident that Tenants won't be able to abuse any of the 29 hazard categories that might convince a court the defect was of their own making, - i.e lack of ventilation, drying clothes inside. To prove it was of the Tenants making is going to be very hard for a landlord, and I have to say, from Landlords experiences in Possession claims in court - they don't share Mr Peakers optimism.
    Looking at some of the HHSRS 29 categories of hazards, because if they exist, how can a property be 'Fit for Habitation.' ( which is totally different to common-sense view of an Unfit property )
    Asbestos ( How many properties have Artex ! )
    Water services - Legionella Risk Assessments
    Hygene - scratches on a worktop surface.
    The legislations author blames me for suggesting these issues and that it will only serve to 'put them in the minds of Tenants,' - as if they needed any help. .... But swiftly asserts that Tenants won't be able to 'Abuse the system'
    Yeah, right - are landlords convinced - reassured ... ?

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    I hav been issuing leaflets regarding the causes and prevention for condensation with tenancies for years.

    You can have fans and trickle vents on windows but if the vents are kept shut and fans are not switched on how do you mange that?

    To get the EPC ratings up you have to add more Insulation and seal drafts.

    Older properties don't have breathable materials so the water loaded air can't escape.
    Condensation black mould is now common and should not be on the list.






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    If a family size increases within the household then the risk of condensation increases. Yet if Section 21 is removed you will not be able to do anything about it.


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    Condensation is caused by a high water content in the air and a cold surface on which the water can then condensate. This then is the breeding ground for black mould growth.

    A good Damp Proofing contractor can tell you this and how to avoid the consequences but nobody seems to take any notice of contractors who need to charge for the advice they can give.

    Don't give a tenant something you have written yourself as this can be challenged by the simple words 'what qualifications do you have to be able to state this'. Get the money out and pay for some proper advice in a leaflet form that you can issue and get a signature for it. Problem solved as far as mould is concerned.

  • Paul Barrett

    Any tenant that causes mould to occur is entirely their fault unless it can be proven that there are any issues with the fabric of the building.
    Tenants who are too thick to appreciate that the air in a property needs to be replaced every day deserve al the problems they cause.
    If this is detected by the LL eviction awaits.
    Tenants should do as they are instructed by the LL and conform to what explanatory leaflets tell tenants to do.
    Rarely are damp and mould caused by problems with the property.
    If there are then these must be addressed by the LL immediately.

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    When I have a new tenant they get a notes on Legionnaires decease and what can cause it, damp and mould and how to avoid it. Still get mould from not opening windows and cloths drying over rads!! Charge them everytime as Inventory shows property clear.

    Paul Barrett

    Perhaps there should be an attachment to the HTR booklet detailing the issues of mould and how to address them.
    At least then no tenant could deny they have not been told how to live in a building..
    Sort of like this
    If condensation is noted open a window etc!!!!

     
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    PB this still can come back to the question - what qualifications do you have to state this?

    Ever been to arbitration with the DPS? If you have you know that they side with the tenants and whatever you give the tenant, unless you have a qualification to say that you can offer this information then you are on a loser.

    Cover your backside it really is that simple.

  • Paul Barrett

    Personally no qualifications at all.
    However and appreciating what you state if a tenant fails to comply with Govt information is that the LL fault!?
    It is an impossibility to be qualified.
    I would just do inventory photos at tenancy start and finish.
    At the end. Tenant fault!
    I refuse to use DPS
    I use mydeposits.
    No tenant ever disputed my retaining all or some of the deposit cos they knew I was correct!!
    But I do accept what you state.
    If I had a property which due to tenant ignorance was consistently mouldy I would get shot of the property.
    Ignorant tenants will continue; best get rid of a property that tenants are incapable of living in correctly.
    Especially with these new regs best get rid of these types of property!
    All it will take is a tenant to game the system with an avaricious no win no fee lawyer and the LL could be bankrupted!!
    LL need to get rid of the low rent tenant and property.
    I DON'T entertain the low end of the market due to the problems you have mentioned and alluded to.

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    I had a property infested in fleas left by the tenant and his cat, ( I refuse pets)
    Cost nearly £600 to sort. Also mould and damp, never had before, never since.
    DPS agreed part payment, fool arbritrator had photos, invoices, contractors report, Inventory, 3 monthly Inspection reports, still this foolish inexperienced arbritrator favoured the tenant, who gave no notice, no forwarding address, dozens of debt letters. Dont use DPS, made Complaint to highest level fell on deaf ears. DPS should be shut down.

    Paul Barrett

    Yep I refuse to use anything but the insurance version of deposit protection.
    Tenants tend not to bother when they know the LL has the deposit monies.
    I have witheld small deposit amounts and sometimes the lot
    No tenants have tried to stop me retaining the monies
    All LL should use the insurance deposit version.

     
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