Since March, all tenants – whether in private or social accommodation – can now sue their landlords if their homes have health-damaging defects. This is thanks to the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill 2017-2019, which came into force for new tenancies from 20 March 2019 and, from now, applies to existing, historic tenancies too.
“Landlords have had 12 months to consider the implications of the act”, says Hudson Lambert, managing director of Safeguard Europe – the UK’s leading specialist in damp and waterproofing, and masonry repair solutions – “and they’re running out of time to improve these properties before the law starts to bite. Our advice to any that haven’t done so is to assess properties as soon as possible and make the necessary repairs or modifications. No one should be living in homes that are damaging to health.”
The Act sets out a raft of issues which, if defective, could cause harm to tenants, including proper ventilation and freedom from damp. The presence of damp and poor ventilation can both promote mould growth, and the relationship between ill health, damp and mould and the negative impact on respiratory health are well established.
The English Housing Survey 2018-2019 found that 7% of private rented dwellings and 5% of social housing had some sort of damp problem. In certain sectors, that figure appears to be much higher. Research by the National Union of Students published in February 2019 found that 35% of students were living in rented accommodation with damp and mould.
Previously tenants with damp and mould problems could attempt to legally address them by pursuing a statutory nuisance notice with local authority environmental health officers. However, the response to council intervention from landlords has often been to begin eviction proceedings against the tenants, which deterred tenants from complaining.
Under the new regime, tenants can sue landlords, not only to force them to fix health-damaging defects, but also for compensation. The courts will decide on the timeframe for any required works, and what the level of compensation will be.
For landlords and their advisors seeking expert advice on damp, Safeguard offers a CPD seminar programme on the major causes and effective treatments. The headline CPD, the RIBA-accredited Dealing with Dampness, is an overarching introduction to the problems of rising and penetrating damp that will give landlords, specifiers, builders and others enough information to help them tell the difference between the two and determine sources, while giving options on how to act to cure the problem.
For details of Safeguard’s CPD programme, visithttps://www.safeguardeurope.com/training-courses/cpd-seminars