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What should 'fit for human habitation' actually mean?

Friday 13 October 2017

This is the question the Welsh Government are asking in their consultation: Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 - Fitness for human habitation. We will be responding, but you should too.

The current definition of Fit For Human Habitation (FFHH) is provided by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which implies a contractual term on the landlord-tenant relationship, placing an obligation on the landlord to ensure the dwelling is FFHH at the start of, and during, the tenancy. The landlord of a qualifying dwelling is required to ensure that the house is “reasonably suitable for occupation” in respect of the following nine matters:

  • repair
  • stability
  • freedom from damp
  • internal arrangement
  • natural lighting
  • ventilation
  • water supply
  • drainage and sanitary conveniences
  • facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water

THE NEED FOR CHANGE

Unfortunately, the rent qualifications and nine matters above are massively outdated, having remained unchanged since 1957. For Wales, only dwellings where the rent does not exceed £52 per annum are covered, effectively rendering it useless. 

A SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSALS

The new regulations, made under Section 94 of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 aim to be much more indicative of modern living standards and the Government is proposing that they adopt the 29 'prescribed matters' as set out within the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Examples of the new list include: Electrical hazzards, asbestos and manufactured mineral fibres, lead, radiation, entry by intruders, noise, position and operability of amenities.

However, unlike the HHSRS, the FFHH obligation under Renting Homes will not require a detailed assessment to be carried out by a local authority. Instead, whether a dwelling is FFHH will ultimately be determined by the courts, in the event of no agreement being reached between the landlord and the contract-holder. 

In addition to the 29 prescribed matters, the proposed new regulations will also impose mandatory responsibilities on landlords with regard to:

  • Smoke alarms
  • carbon monoxide detectors
  • electrical safety testing at least every five years

Along with other aspects of the 2016 Act, the landlord’s duty to ensure a dwelling is FFHH will be reflected in the Landlord’s Code of Practice issued under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. A landlord who rents a dwelling which is not FFHH, or who fails to rectify an issue causing the dwelling to be unfit, may risk having their landlord licence revoked.

RESPONDING TO THE CONSULTATION

The consultation closes on 12 January 2018. There are three ways to respond:

Respond to the consultation online

OR

Complete the response form at the end of the consultation document and either email it back to rentinghomes@wales.gov, or return to:

Renting Homes Team
Housing Policy Division
Ground Floor, West Core
Welsh Government
Cathays Park
Cardiff
CF10 3NQ

OR

Alternatively, if you prefer, you can email Tim Douglas, ARLA Propertymark's Policy and Campaign Officer. We can then include your views in our official response to the consultation.