Landlord Advice

What Makes a Property Uninhabitable in the UK – A Landlord’s Responsibility

Homes play an important role in our lives. A place where we can shelter from the elements and be comfortable and safe. At least, that’s what we expect. Unfortunately, there has been an increasing number of rental properties that don’t meet those expectations. As a landlord, there are a number of regulations in terms of the habitability of a property. This raises a question; what makes a property uninhabitable? A question we’ll answer.

So if you:

  • Are planning to let a property;
  • Are wondering what you need to look out for;
  • Need to know how to get your property up to standards;

Then read on! 

Habitability matters

As a landlord, you have a responsibility to your tenants in ensuring they have a safe living space. The state of a rental property can have a huge impact on a tenant, in both their physical and mental health. Additionally, it can have a serious effect on your business, with new laws being introduced in recent years to combat ‘rogue landlords’. 

Thankfully, for the benefit of landlords and tenants, rogue landlords are a small majority. That being said, the damage they have done to the reputation of landlords will be long-lasting. Indeed, public perception of landlords has been decreasing rapidly over the past decade, so as a landlord, you shouldn’t be adding to that perception. 

HHSRS hazards

HHSRS stands for the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. It’s a risk-based system that was introduced in 2006 and focuses on the issue of human habitation. It’s been criticised for its complexity and confusing rules. Thankfully, since its induction, the government has introduced measures to make it clearer. The regulations are still quite extensive, being separated into 4 distinct groups, which relate to issues that can affect physical and mental health.

HHSRS Physiological requirements

This is the physical damage that an uninhabitable property could cause. Surveyors will be on the lookout for : 

  • Damp and mould growth
  • Proper heating and ventilation
  • Asbestos
  • Biocides
  • Radiation (Radon gas in soil entering property)
  • Lead (Mostly in paints or waterpipes)
  • High levels of carbon monoxide and other combustible products
  • Uncombusted fuel gas (gas leaks leading to asphyxiation)
  • Volatile organic compounds (Chemicals within many common items, like mattress packaging and vinyl flooring)

We know, the inclusion of some of these can seem arbitrary. It is highly unlikely that you will have excess levels of radiation in your property for instance. Unless you’re building a mini fusion reactor in your kitchen. Excess lead and asbestos are also much more rare, due to government initiatives that have either banned or reduced their use. However, you should still take these seriously, as they are still an important aspect of housing health and safety. Especially within older properties or those that haven’t undergone renovations, as they can still be plagued with these issues. 

What to look out for as a landlord

As a private landlord, it’s unlikely you’ll have to fix a radiation problem. That being said, there are some items listed which commonly affect rental properties. 

Damp and mould growth, for instance, is a common complaint amongst tenants, with older properties suffering the most. Older properties tend to have more moisture problems, resulting in more damp issues. Whether it be through faulty roofing and drainage, or insufficient protection from groundwater causing rising damp, you should be on the lookout for dark patches and mould growth within the property, or on its exterior walls. 

Damp and mould are associated with exacerbated breathing problems in those with respiratory conditions. In preserving the health and safety of a property, dampness and mould should be kept to a minimum.

Proper heating and ventilation

Heating is another big one in terms of housing health and safety. It can be a problem at any time, especially if you have an old boiler. Tenants need to have access to both heating and hot water at all times, so if the boiler breaks down, the landlord will be responsible for repairs. This is also why it’s important to have your boiler serviced at least once a year, as it can identify any problems so that you can keep the boiler in good working order. 

Carbon monoxide and uncombusted fuel

The general public is now much more aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and uncombusted fuel, as there have been well-documented cases of death resulting from CO poisoning, or asphyxiation relating to a gas leak. Thankfully, this shouldn’t be much of an issue for a landlord, as you need a gas safety certificate before you can lease a property. This should identify any possible dangers in gas appliances or boilers, that you will need to fix prior to a tenant moving in. 

HHSRS psychological requirements

As you can imagine, these are issues that can impact a tenant’s mental health. They are as follows: 

  • Overcrowding and space
  • Protection from intruders
  • Lighting
  • Excess noise

Generally speaking, the issue of overcrowding is mostly an HMO landlord issue. You should make sure that your property doesn’t have an excess amount of people within it and that your tenants have enough personal space. For instance, the minimum requirement for a room used to house one person should be at least 6.51m. 

Equally important, is your tenant’s safety from intruders. That means the property should be properly secure and any possible entryways, like a broken window, should be fixed. If you are an HMO landlord, each tenants room should have a lock installed to ensure privacy.

HHSRS Lighting and excess noise

The HHSRS states that a tenant should have access to enough natural light and artificial light. Nobody wants to live in a dark, gloomy house, so extra light fittings or even windows may need to be installed. 

Noise can be an issue, as there is no real landlord responsibility if a problem neighbour isn’t a tenant. There are some things you can do to deal with the issue though, like speaking on behalf of your tenant to the neighbour. You can also help them fill out a noise complaint that they can give to their local authority too, which can certainly help you build rapport with your tenants. 

Alternatively, if you are leasing a flat, or are the owner of an HMO tenancy, you should be careful when renovating a property. Laminate flooring can look amazing, though if there are tenants or neighbours living beneath the property, the flooring could be a problem. If this is the case,  softer carpets should be used, which helps reduce noise. 

HHSRS – Infection 

This is anything that could potentially make a tenant sick and are another important feature in regards to housing health and safety. These issues are easy to keep on top of, as long as you are getting the required property inspections and are communicating with your tenants. You should be on the lookout for: 

  • Domestic hygiene and pests
  • Food safety 
  • Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
  • Water supply 

HHSRS hygiene and pests

A property should be spotless by the time a tenant moves in, as noted within the tenancy agreement. This might mean an end of tenancy clean is in order to get your property up to scratch. 

Your property should also be free of any pests, which can also impact the food safety of a property. It may be a good idea to have regular pest inspections, to make sure your property is free of any pests. If your property does have a pest infestation, it is the landlords’ responsibility to resolve the problem, usually coming in the form of a professional pest control service.

HHSRS personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage

Your tenants need to be able to keep themselves clean, so washing rooms should be properly supplied with working sinks, baths and/or showers. This also leads to the issue of water supply and drainage. Your tenants must be able to access both hot and cold water at any time and be able to properly drain water. Drainage issues can lead to other problems, like blocked drains, or mould and damp problems. 

You can keep on top of these issues by having a regular pipe and plumbing inspections, to make sure everything is working as it should. If any problems do arise, you’ll have to get in a professional plumber to sort it. 

HHSRS – Protection from accidents

The home is the most common place statistically for an accident to happen. As a landlord, you need to make sure that your property is structurally safe and that there is nothing that can present a potential hazard to tenants. You should be on the lookout for anything that can cause physical injury:

  • Falling hazards (baths/showers, level surfaces and stairs)
  • Electrical hazards
  • Fire hazards
  • Collisions and entrapment
  • Explosions
  • Position and operability of appliances
  • Structural partial or total collapse

HHSRS – Falling hazards

You should make sure that your property is adequately safeguarded against potential fall hazards. While you aren’t responsible for someone falling when getting out of the bath, you are responsible if someone falls down the stairs because of a rickety bannister. You should make sure any potential hazards are fixed, whether it be broken or sunken floorboards, broken bannisters. 

HHSRS – Electrical hazards

This relates to dangerous or faulty electrical fittings and wiring. This is easily preventable, as you have to perform an EICR (electrical installation condition report) before you can rent out a property. This will ensure that your property is on par with housing health and safety standards. If there are any issues, you’ll need a qualified electrician to sort out any issues that arise. 

HHSRS – Fire hazards and explosions

This one is more for HMO landlords, where the fire regulations are slightly more extensive. Your tenants need to be protected from fire hazards and have active methods in order to combat or flee potential fires. This includes fire blankets, extinguishers, and fire exits. Fire blankets and extinguishers should be inspected regularly (once a year) to make sure that they are in working order. Fire exits should be clear of any obstacles and be easily accessible for your tenants. 

Explosions are an incredibly rare hazard, though they can happen. If you have been regularly doing gas safety inspections, this shouldn’t be much of a problem for you. 

HHSRS – Position and operability of appliances

This is about physical strain resulting from the poor design of a home. For instance, if you have little headroom or space in a kitchen, it could lead to injuries, like burns or sprains. Tenants shouldn’t be impacted by the layout of the room when dealing with hot surfaces and materials. You need to ensure that your tenants can safely work the appliances in and around the home, which might lead to new room layouts or refurbishment. 

HHSRS – Structural collapse and falling elements

As you can imagine, this relays to the structural integrity of your property. It relates mostly to a structure’s ability to hold a certain amount of weight without failing. Generally, this isn’t something you need to worry about as a landlord. That being said, if your property resides within an area with adverse weather conditions, you should make sure that the roof is able to handle any extra weight. Nothing dampens the mood of a tenant more than structural collapse. 

What happens if my property is uninhabitable

As long as landlords are carrying out the required inspections and have the certificates needed to rent, the HRSRS hazards shouldn’t affect you too much. That being said, if your property is deemed uninhabitable or unsafe, then you will most likely be served a notice for improvement from your local authority. This will enforce you to carry out any remedial work needed to get the property to a safe standard. 

The local authority can also close part of a building, serve a hazard awareness notice, declare a clearance order, or even demolish a building. These instances are rare within the rental sector, but they can happen if a situation is bad enough. Hence why it is always best to carry out any work immediately. 

Need help with your property

We at Fantastic Services are here to help! We have professionals for any job that you might require, whether it be as simple as unblocking a drain, or more complex, like refurbishment, we can help. The experts we send are armed with the tools and experience to handle any job you have. So if you need: 

Then we have you covered! Just contact us either through our main website or by giving us a call. 

Property in disrepair?

Get a handyman today!

Add a valid postcode e.g. SE1 2TH

Takeaways

  • There are many aspects that can make  property uninhabitable
  • Habitability is an issue for both tenants and landlords 
  • You should make sure your property is as safe as possible before leasing
  • As long as you have the correct checks and certifications, you shouldn’t be affected by HHSRS hazards.

***

We hope you found our article on what makes a property uninhabitable helpful. If you have any questions, or you have an experience relating to the issue, leave a comment with us below. 

Image source: Shutterstock / David Herring

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x