Tenants can be cause of property problems as well as landlords, Government admits

Landlords’ long-standing criticisms of health and safety regulation – that tenants are often the cause of problems such as mould or water leaks – look set to be addressed in new government guidance.

Councils inspecting rented properties will be formally instructed to examine residents’ behaviour when deciding whether to take action against landlords over dangerous conditions, according to leaked documents seen by the Observer over the weekend.

Under the updated housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) – part of the Decent Homes Standard – environmental health inspectors will be told to consider detailed “behavioural factors”, such as whether residents are ensuring their home is heated and ventilated, including using heating, running extraction fans and opening windows.

They will also be required to consider whether people are exposing themselves to excessively low temperatures due to ignorance, a “stoic and often embedded attitude” to cold or desire to “reduce carbon emissions”.

Landlords and local councils have complained that the HHSRS – which hasn’t been updated since 2006 – is complicated and inefficient to use. Guidance developed for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is expected to take effect by April 2023.

The DLUHC says the secretary of state has been clear that landlords must be held to account if they do not provide safe and decent homes.

Enforce standards

A spokesman tells LandlordZONE: “We are reviewing the HHSRS to ensure the tool works as well as it can – that means allowing councils to enforce standards in rented homes more effectively and efficiently. This will result in fewer hazardous conditions.”

Earlier this year, landlords were asked to share their views on the proposed new Decent Homes Standard, part of the Renters’ Reform Bill.

It aims to match standards in the social rented sector and introduces a legal duty on landlords to ensure their property is free from the most serious ‘category 1’ hazards assessed using the HHSRS; failure to do so would be a criminal offence.

Read the current guidance on HHSRA for private landlords.

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