65% of tenants not aware of new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act

51% of renters have experienced damp or mould in their homes

1st April 2019 – The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force on 20th March 2019. According to the UK Government, the purpose of this Act is to ensure that rented properties are:

fit for human habitation’, which means that it’s safe, healthy and free from things that could cause you or anyone else in your household serious harm. For example, if your house or flat is too cold and you can’t heat it, this can affect your health.

The Act provides tenants with enhanced rights to take action against landlords who fail to ensure that their properties are ‘fit for human habitation.’

Safeguard Europe wanted to know what proportion of tenants were aware of their new rights and also to find out which building defects they had experienced which might render their home not ‘fit for human habitation.’ Working with leading pollsters, YouGov commissioned a poll of 1154 tenants in the UK who currently rent their home from a private landlord, housing association, or local authority.

With regard to awareness of the new Act, headline figures were as follows

  • 65% of respondents were not aware of the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
  • 42% of respondents would be more likely to complain to their landlord/ housing association about defects in their rented home a result of the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

Government guidance related to the new Act highlights a number of problems and defects that can affect rented properties, potentially making them ‘unfit for human habitation.’ YouGov asked the tenants which of these they had experienced in any of the properties that they had rented. The results are shown in the graph below:

The top response was “Damp and Mould” at 51.48%, showing that this continues to be a major issue in the rented sector.

Drilling down into the data, an unexpected observation is that tenants with higher monthly rent bills are more likely to report having suffered from damp and mould:

Those renting from private landlords were more likely to have experienced problems with dampness and mould than those renting from housing associations or local authorities:

% experienced damp and mould by landlord type:

  • Renting from private landlord 55%
  • Renting from local authority 46%
  • Renting from housing association 46%

This may be a reflection of the fact that previous attempts to improve the quality of rented accommodation (Decent Homes Standard, etc…) have tended to focus on housing associations and local authorities rather than the private rented sector.

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Safeguard Europe’s Managing Director, Hudson Lambert said:

Although it is disappointing that 65% of tenants are unaware of the new Act, it is still early days as it only came into law a few weeks ago.

Sadly, the fact that damp and mould topped the list of defects affecting rented properties came as little surprise. In many cases, these problems can be easily resolved through early intervention and regular maintenance. However there is a tendency to allow them build up until they become critical, at which point they can be more costly and complicated to resolve.

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