Buy-to-let landlords should be aware that Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) inventory reports are not needed to comply with the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, according to No Letting Go.
The provider of inventory services says there is currently widespread confusion relating to the legislation, introduced in March, with a view to ensuring that all rental accommodation is suitable for human habitation at the start of the tenancy and throughout.
As many of you already know, this law offers renters the right to sue landlords in England and Wales if properties do not meet certain standards, such as if they are excessively cold or mouldy resulting in them being unfit for habitation.
The law not only requires standards to be maintained in the property but also extends to the maintenance of common areas or retained parts.
It was recently announced that the government is aiming to reform the HHSRS to ‘improve, clarify and modernise’ the system, as well as addressing whether some hazard profiles can be removed or combined.
But for inventory providers and other industry firms to promise to be able to do this by publishing HHSRS checklists and offering health and safety checks is misleading due to the nature of some of the 29 HHSRS hazards, according to Nick Lyons, CEO and founder of No Letting Go.
If tenants identify an issue which they believe makes their property unfit for human habitation, they are required to notify the landlord in writing.
The landlord - or a letting agent acting on their behalf - then has 14 days to provide an adequate response in writing to explain how they propose to resolve the issue.
Lyons said: “Providing the issue is dealt with in a timely fashion, there will be no problem for landlords and no further action taken.
“There is no legal requirement for an HHSRS report to be provided at the start of the tenancy.”
No Letting Go says that some of the HHSRS hazards, such as radiation and volatile organic compounds, are not visible or obvious and therefore tricky to fit into a tick box format.
Lyons continued: “A good inventory and documented mid-term inspections, alongside efficient maintenance processes, can prevent problems and ensure that letting agents and landlords remain compliant with The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.”
Some 15 of the 29 HHSRS hazards would be picked up in a good inventory or property visit, according to No Letting Go.
These include damp and mould growth, excess heat or cold, lighting, entry by intruders, food safety, sanitation, water supply and more.
It says the remaining 14 hazards, such as lead in paint, are much less common and it's difficult to see how an agent or landlord could check the property for these issues unless they are specifically trained or raised by the tenant.
Lyons added: “The HHSRS in its current form is complicated, so it's good news that the government has committed to simplifying it.
“Moving forward, a reformed HHSRS will be able to complement independent inventories and legislation like the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act in order to protect the condition of properties and provide renters with a higher standard of accommodation.”