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Clearer guidelines needed for Welsh Fitness for Human Habitation proposals

Friday 19 January 2018

ARLA Propertymark has responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation on fitness for human habitation pressing for clearer guidelines for landlords as they prepare for responsibilities to ensure a dwelling is fit for human habitation under the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016.

The Act requires the Welsh Government to make regulations in relation to determining whether a dwelling is fit for human habitation. This consultation set out the proposed regulations and invited comments from interested parties.

As explained in a previous article, in addition to the 29 prescribed matters, the proposed new regulations will also impose mandatory responsibilities on landlords with regard to the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and mandatory electrical safety testing at least every five years.

On the whole we agree that the draft guidelines on fitness for human habitation adequately explains the nature of the 29 matters and circumstances. However, some of the ‘Potential Landlord Actions’ proposed by the Welsh Government need to be better explained or removed altogether. For instance, under ‘Noise’ the proposal for “Bathrooms/WCs in flats not sited above living rooms/bedrooms”, does not take into consideration the locality of these facilities in flats and nearly all houses. Therefore it would be impossible for landlords to move facilities in houses and impractical for landlords to make adjustments in flats where they do not own the apartment above as well.

In relation to the specific requirements placed on landlords by the regulations, we agree with the requirements for a landlord to undertake electrical safety testing. At present electrics in private rented sector properties just have to be “safe” with no definition as to what this means. Therefore, electrical safety testing rules will give a clear and unambiguous requirement that brings electrical safety more in line with the regulations that apply to gas safety.

Furthermore, the draft guidelines need to clearly define and explain what agents need to do to ensure that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in “proper working order”. When similar rules were introduced in England concerns were raised by letting agents and inventory providers that there were no guidelines and so agents have just been pressing the test button. However, it is not clear whether this is enough.

At this stage, we do not think there should be any additional requirements on the type of smoke alarm installed. However, the Welsh Government should monitor the effectiveness of the regulations and upon evaluation potentially seek to bring in additional requirements.

As the regulations progress we will continue to update members and work with the Welsh Government to ensure that the guidance is clear and implementation is practical and works for the sector.

Read our response in full