As cross-party and government support for it builds, we expect the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill to be passed relatively quickly. In theory, nobody can argue that the formalisation of principles already laid out in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is anything but a good thing – the ability to enshrine in law every tenant’s right to live in a safe environment. But in practice the Bill could have far-reaching consequences for landlords.
The HHSRS and the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill
Taking its lead from the HHSRS, the Bill will incorporate the 29 hazards laid out on the HHSRS and class them into two different levels of severity. Category 1 will include hazards that are judged an immediate risk to a person’s health and safety while Category 2 will consist of hazards that, while still unacceptable, are seen as less urgent or serious.
As the bill drills deeper into the detail of potential hazards around the home, most of the issues should already be on landlords’ radars. But - and this is where landlords and their agents need to be really careful - there are a few unexpected concerns which make the list that, if left untended to, could lead to a property failing to be declared fit for human habitation and being forced off the market.
Did you know for example that the temperature of your property could cause you to fail the HHSRS checklist? High indoor temperatures with no means of regulations are listed as a hazard (as they can lead to dehydration or exacerbate respiratory illnesses), while at the other end of the spectrum homes that are not warm enough are also deemed a hazard (due to the impact they can have on lung conditions).
While we can assume that most landlords (particularly those who are taking the time to read the information on the bill) want to create safe living conditions, older buildings are notoriously drafty and it’s entirely feasible that a well-maintained property with an honest landlord and an attentive agent could still find itself unknowingly falling short of the optimum temperatures laid out on the checklist.
Temperature is just one of the unexpected hazards contained in the fine print of the HHSRS checklist that is expected to make its way into the Bill. While most landlords will be proactive when it comes to dealing with issues like asbestos, lead and sanitation issues, more minor niggles like temperature, lighting and noise (all of which are listed) may be overlooked. But if it’s on the checklist, the property needs to pass it, or there will be consequences for the landlord, no matter which category (1 or 2) the hazard falls into or how small the issue seems to be. Landlords need to make assessments and take action now to avoid big problems later on.
For further details on the 29 hazards likely to be included on the Bill, why not download our free HHSRS checklist?