Explains what landlords must do from 15 July 2022 to ensure their property is in good repair and fit for human habitation.
Part 4 of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 (The Act) sets outs the obligations placed on a landlord with regard to the condition of a dwelling. These obligations apply to all occupation contracts made for a term of less than seven years. A landlord under an occupation contract is obliged to ensure a dwelling is both in repair and fit for human habitation (FFHH).
Whilst this guidance addresses the requirement for a dwelling to be FFHH, it is important landlords also understand their complementary obligations regarding repair. Often, a primary cause of a dwelling being unfit for human habitation is the level of disrepair that exists. Tackling disrepair early and effectively can often prevent a dwelling becoming unfit for human habitation.
Section 92 of the Act sets out the landlord’s obligation to keep the dwelling in repair. This obligation extends to:
A landlord must keep the dwelling in repair at all times, although there may be instances where a landlord may not have knowledge of the need for a repair. Once the landlord is aware of the need for repairs, they must be carried out in a reasonable time and to a reasonable standard. This includes the obligation to make good any damage resulting from the repairs. The landlord cannot place any obligation on the contract-holder regarding the repairs, for example contributing to the cost, where the repair is not the fault of the contract-holder.
Section 91 of the Act places an obligation on a landlord to ensure that, at the start of and during the length of the occupation contract, the dwelling is FFHH. These obligations are set out in The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022 (“the FFHH Regulations”) The Renting Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) (Wales) Regulations 2022 (senedd.wales) which set out the 29 matters and circumstances to which regard must be had when determining whether a property is FFHH. In addition, there are specific requirements placed upon a landlord to help ensure certain matters and circumstances do not arise.
The aim of the legislation, both the Act and the FFHH Regulations, and this guidance is one of prevention, to ensure landlords maintain dwellings to prevent them from becoming unfit for human habitation. Prevention of any of the 29 matters or circumstances arising is the approach all landlords should be taking. Not only is this approach more cost effective for landlords but, more fundamentally, it will avoid contract-holders potentially living in unfit conditions.
This guidance indicates the actions that may be taken by a landlord to help ensure the dwelling is FFHH.
Part 1 of this guidance addresses each of the 29 matters and circumstances listed under the Schedule to the FFHH Regulations. It provides some context to the possible issues that could potentially arise from each of these matters and circumstances. Whether a property is FFHH is to be determined by having regard to the 29 matters and circumstances. Whether the dwelling is a fit place to live should, in the vast majority of cases, be clear to both landlord and contract-holder. Ultimately, where a dispute cannot be resolved, whether the dwelling is FFHH will be a matter for the court to determine.
In addition to the points raised in this guidance, a landlord should remain aware of any additional issues which may affect FFHH. A court will consider each particular case on its own merit. A landlord who has concerns about the fitness of a dwelling is advised to seek professional advice before issuing an occupation contract.
The guidance provides examples of actions which a landlord should consider in order to prevent / diagnose / treat the occurrence of a particular matter and circumstance. However such examples are not exhaustive and are provided only as an aid to any potential solution. In addition, many of the examples may already be a requirement under the repairing obligations of a landlord under existing legislation.
Part 2 of this guidance deals with specific requirements placed on the landlord as part of the FFHH Regulations, to help ensure some of the 29 matters and circumstances do not arise. For example, to minimise the possibility of fire and its impact there is a requirement for a landlord to ensure the presence of smoke alarms.
The guidance draws on the guidance for landlords and property professionals issued in relation to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (Wales) Regulations 2006 (“the HHSRS Regulations”) prescribe the hazards associated with a risk of harm. A local authority will assess the dwelling by reference to these matters and circumstances and classes of harm also specified in the HHSRS Regulations to identify whether a Category 1 or 2 hazard exists. However, whether or not a hazard as set out in Schedule 1 to the HHSRS Regulations exists does not pre-determine whether a dwelling is unfit for human habitation in accordance with the FFHH Regulations. For example while a slight variation of floor surface may be a hazard under the HHSRS it would be highly unlikely on its own, to result in a determination that the dwelling is unfit for human habitation. In the example given above regarding the hazard of falling on a level surface, while a slight variation of floor surface would be unlikely to breach the fitness obligation, a local authority inspection may find it to be a hazard under HHSRS. If an elderly person is living in the dwelling, the local authority is likely to take enforcement action against the landlord.
Both are caused by dampness and/or high humidity.
Both are related directly to dampness which is caused by:
If most of the conditions above are met then raising indoor temperatures, taking into account energy efficiency and cost of heating, can significantly reduce dust mite problems. So an efficient heating system appropriate for the fabric (thermal properties) of the building is important.
Preventive measures are particularly important here because of the likelihood of occupants having to be more confined to one or two areas; thus making them more vulnerable to any dampness etc., that might be present.
This covers the threats to health when temperatures fall below the minimum satisfactory levels for relatively long periods.
Centrally controlled space heating systems should operate in a way that makes sure occupants are not exposed to cold indoor temperatures. Occupants should be allowed to control temperature within their dwelling
This category includes threats from excessively high indoor air temperatures.
Many flats and bedsits can be affected as these are more likely to be dwellings which:
Includes the presence of and exposure to asbestos fibres and Manufactured Mineral Fibres (MMF, which includes rockwool and glass fibre blankets) in dwellings. (White, blue and brown forms of asbestos fibres are included, that is chrysotile and both forms of amphibole.)
Mostly used in loft and cavity wall insulation. Modern products release few, if any, fibres and are not bio-persistent so risk is minimal.
These are chemicals used to treat timber and/or mould growth in dwellings.
The potential for harm depends on the chemical in use and people are usually affected by inhalation, skin contact and swallowing.
Treatment of the dwelling should be undertaken, where possible, whilst uninhabited. Where this is not possible the procedures and safety measures applicable to an individual product must be followed.
These are all linked to the (partial) combustion of gas, oil, solid fuels for heating and cooking in dwellings.
All these result from an incomplete or improper combustion of the fuel or blockages or other defects to the flue.
Carbon monoxide in dwellings:
Carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide:
See also Part 2 of this guidance.
There are two main sources around dwellings – paint and water pipes. Other sources of lead might include soil, especially around older buildings with flaking external paintwork and areas around industrial premises using (or having previously used) lead. There may also be lead traces in soil close to busy roads because of the exhaust fumes from leaded petrol.
The presence of lead in drinking water may be a result of lead pipes but also lead solder. It is impossible to tell the difference between lead solder and non-leaded solder on pipework joints just by looking at it. The only way it can be done is to carry out a specialised test on the solder. Prevention is best, always use a reputable plumber and check that they are using non-leaded solder on your water system.
If you are concerned about lead pipes or lead solder, you can have your water tested for lead content. Please contact your water company if you have a mains water supply or your local authority if you have a private water supply. Some water companies, for example Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, offer free lead tests to customers on request.
The main source of harmful radiation in dwellings is from radon gas. Radon is colourless and odourless formed by the radioactive decay of the small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in all rocks and soils. It is not possible to detect it, either in the air or the water, without testing and measurement. Radon can be dissolved in water, particularly in private water supplies, but it is airborne radon that poses a more significant threat.
Radon is measured in Becquerels per cubic metre of air (Bqm-3). The average level in UK homes is 20 Bqm-3. For levels below 100 Bqm-3, the individual risk remains relatively low and not a cause for concern. However, the risk increases as the radon level increases. Within domestic properties Public Health Wales recommends that radon levels should be reduced where the average is more than an Action Level of 200 Bqm-3. This Action Level refers to the annual average concentration as measured using two detectors (in a bedroom and living room) over three months, to average out short-term fluctuations.
This hazard includes the threat of asphyxiation resulting from the escape of fuel gas into the atmosphere of a dwelling.
Are a range of organic chemicals that are gaseous at room temperature and found in a wide variety of materials in the home. Formaldehyde is included in this hazard. People in newly built/refurbished dwellings are most likely to be exposed to VOCs.
VOCs produce vapours at room temperatures. Sources typically within the control of the landlord include:
Typical levels of VOCs found in UK homes do not present a risk to health. However, exposure to higher levels may be found, for example, during painting for extended periods of time. Emission rates are affected by temperature, relative humidity, ventilation rates and occupant activity. Emission from building materials and treatments normally falls over the first year, although it will be affected by ventilation rates. Furnishings such as carpets and other fabrics will absorb VOCs (or may have been pre-treated) and will release them later.
Emissions of VOCs from building materials and treatments and from furnishings should be minimised. Low emission materials and products should be used where possible. Dwellings should also be provided with means of ensuring adequate and appropriate ventilation. Landlords should take particular care during alterations or repair to the dwelling which is likely to increase the presence of VOCs. This will be of particular concern where there is an inadequate or damaged ventilation system.
This includes all the hazards associated with lack of space and crowding. It takes into account the psychological needs for both social interaction/privacy. It also looks at the effects of crowding on space requirements for household activity.
As a minimum, landlords should ensure the requirements of Part 10 of Housing Act 1985 relating to overcrowding are complied with at all times. Failure to meet these requirements may be a criminal offence
This hazard is concerned with keeping a dwelling secure against unauthorised entry and maintaining its safety.
A balance has to be struck between the security of the dwelling and the potential to increase other potential risks e.g. locked doors and windows and means of escape in the case of fire.
Concierge, caretaker systems and entry-phone controls have been found to reduce crime/fear of crime. Consideration should be given to whole building security as well as that between individual residents of the same building.
Includes threats to physical and mental health associated with inadequate natural/artificial light. It also includes the psychological effect linked with the view through glazing from the dwelling.
The layout of the dwelling, particularly living rooms and kitchens. There should be sufficient natural light during daylight hours to enable normal domestic tasks to be carried out without eyestrain. Windows should be of adequate size, and of appropriate shape and position to allow for reasonable daylight penetration into rooms. Artificial lighting should be positioned to provide sufficient light to enable domestic and recreational activities to be carried out without eyestrain and without creating glare or shadows. Artificial light is particularly important where domestic tasks require adequate light, for example in the kitchen over worktops, sinks and cookers. Windows should be wide enough to provide for a reasonable view of the immediate surroundings.
This includes threats to physical and mental health from exposure to noise in the home caused by a lack of sufficient sound insulation. It does not cover unreasonable noisy behaviour of neighbours (domestic or commercial).
This is concerned with protection against infection. Includes hazards resulting from:
Includes the threat of infection resulting from inadequate facilities for storage, preparation and cooking of food.
Generally kitchen facilities should be in a properly designed room or area to cater for safe and hygienic preparation and cooking of food.
Design, layout and state of repair
Much the same provisions as for single dwellings but shared facilities need adequately sized oven/hob/space.
Includes threats of infection/threats to mental health associated with the above, including personal washing and clothes washing facilities.
Sanitation (provision of):
Consideration should be given to each individual dwelling separately and any shared facilities.
This is limited to the supply after delivery to the dwelling and concerned with water for drinking, cooking, washing, cleaning and sanitation.
Includes any fall associated with bath, shower or similar facility, whether that fall is on the same level or from one level to another.
The placement of bath, shower or similar facility to ensure there is unobstructed ingress and egress and the installation is secure.
Includes falls on any level surface such as floors, yards and paths. Also trip steps / thresholds / ramps where the change in level is less than 300mm.
Landlords should conduct visual inspections to ensure the risk of trip hazards are minimised, e.g. ripped/torn carpets, loose floorboards and broken paving etc. Adequate lighting will help enable users to identify any obstructions and any trip steps or projecting thresholds.
Covers any fall associated with a change in level greater than 300mm and includes falls associated with:
Does not include trip steps/thresholds/ramps where the change in level is less than 300mm. These are considered under falling on level surfaces.
Includes falls between two levels within and outside a dwelling or building where the change in level is more than 300mm. Includes falls from out of dwellings, e.g. windows, balconies, accessible roofs and over landing balustrades. Also includes falls from any other change in level not served by stairs or steps (e.g. over the guard rails to galleried rooms/basement wells or to garden retaining walls).
Does not include falls from stairs/steps/ramps/chairs/tables/ladders.
Landlords should carry out visual inspections to ensure the likelihood of falling between levels is minimised as far as possible.
Include hazards from shock and burns resulting from exposure to electricity but not risks associated with fire caused by deficiencies to the electrical installations, e.g. ignition caused by a short circuit.
See also Part 2 of this guidance.
Includes threats from accidental (as opposed to arson) uncontrolled fire and any associated smoke.
Occupiers’ reactions on discovering fire can possibly influence escape from fire, but factors in the cause of fire can include:
See also Part 2 of this guidance.
This is concerned with injuries from:
It also includes burns and scalds from spills during cooking or preparing hot drinks. It does not include burns from an uncontrolled fire at the dwelling.
Risk can be increased where the kitchen is shared and people are using it at the same time. If possible, there should be separate worktop space and separate cooking facilities for each dwelling. Where cooking is done in a bedroom or living room there needs to be enough distance between the kitchen area and the sleeping or living area. There should also be an adequate number of electric sockets in the kitchen area to cut down the risks of scalds.
Includes threat of trapping body parts such as fingers of limbs in architectural features e.g. doors or windows. Also includes striking (colliding with) features such as glazing, windows, doors, low ceilings or walls.
Landlords should conduct visual and physical inspections to minimise the likelihood of collision or entrapment occurring.
Includes the threat from debris created by a blast and the partial or total collapse of the building as a result of the explosion.
Landlords should conduct visual and/or physical inspections to minimise the likelihood wherever possible.
Includes threats of physical strain associated with functional space and other features at the dwelling.
It also includes physical strain which may result from avoidance of other hazards (see Collision and Entrapment and Falls hazards).
Landlords should conduct visual and physical inspections to minimise the likelihood of strain or injury occurring. For example, the position of light switches when ascending or descending stairs.
Includes threats of whole dwelling collapse and/or an element or a part of the fabric being displaced or failing because of inadequate fixing, disrepair or adverse weather conditions. Structural failure can be internal, threatening the occupants or within the immediate external area putting members of the public at risk.
Landlords should conduct visual and physical inspections to minimise the likelihood of injury occurring. This should include exterior inspections with regard to roof tiles or slates etc.
As stated earlier in this guidance a landlord must consider all the 29 matters and circumstances listed under Part 1 to which regard is to be had when determining whether the dwelling is FFHH. In addition, the FFHH Regulations place specific requirements on landlords to help prevent certain matters and circumstances arising. Where a landlord fails to comply with these requirements, the dwelling is to be treated as if it were unfit for human habitation. There are three requirements imposed on a landlord:
The presence of smoke alarms is intended to reduce the risk of fire and associated smoke and any consequent injury or loss of life. Without a smoke alarm fitted an occupier is at least four times more likely to die. The FFHH Regulations require a smoke alarm, in proper working order, to be present on every storey of a dwelling Landlords must ensure each of these smoke alarms is in proper working order, connected to the electrical supply and inter-linked with all other smoke alarms connected to the electrical supply. To ensure that this requirement is met, the opportunity to test smoke alarms should be sought e.g. whilst carrying out a necessary repair or electrical testing in the dwelling.
Depending on the size of the dwelling landlords may consider it appropriate to ensure the presence of more than one smoke alarm on each storey. Landlords may also consider it appropriate to fit an additional heat alarm in the kitchen area. Smoke alarms should be sited where they can be heard by the occupier when asleep, usually a hall and landing area. Once the minimum requirements of the regulations have been met a landlord may install additional smoke alarms which are battery powered. The FFHH regulations do not require these additional battery powered alarms to be inter-linked.
The fire service provides guidance on the type of alarms available and their fitting. In addition, BS 5839 (part 6) sets out the requirements for the proper fitting of smoke alarms in domestic properties. A contractor specialising in the fitting of smoke alarms should be able to advise you on this standard.
Get a free smoke alarm from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
Request a home safety visit by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
Request a Safe and Well visit from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
A landlord must note the manufacturer’s recommended life span of a fire alarm, which will depend on the alarm. An alarm which has passed its expiry date may not be fully operational and incapable of detecting smoke.
A dwelling which is subject to an occupation contract which converted from an existing contract on the date of implementation will not be required to install a smoke alarm for a period of up to twelve months from the date of conversion. This exemption will no longer apply to the dwelling should the converted contract end.
Carbon monoxide is a gas, produced when carbon based fuel is burnt without enough oxygen. You cannot see, smell or taste it but it can injure and kill quickly.
Not only is it responsible for a considerable number of deaths and poisonings each year; many people are likely to be affected by carbon monoxide without realising it.
Combustion appliances such as boilers, gas and open fires, heaters and stoves fuelled by solid fuel, oil or gas all have the potential to cause CO poisoning if they are poorly installed, poorly maintained or incorrectly used. Particularly where there is inadequate (or lack of) proper ventilation, flues and chimneys.
The FFHH Regulations require a landlord to ensure that a carbon monoxide alarm is present in any room which has a gas, oil or solid fuel burning appliance installed. Carbon monoxide alarms are essential in providing perhaps the only warning an occupier will have of the presence of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a ‘silent killer’ and almost every fatality results from the lack of early warning to its presence.
Additional information on the causes and effects of carbon monoxide can be found at the Public Health Wales website.
The placement of carbon monoxide alarms should be considered carefully. Smoke alarms, because heat and smoke rise, are normally placed on the ceiling. This is not necessarily the best place to install carbon monoxide detectors. The concentration of carbon monoxide could reach dangerous levels before reaching ceiling height. As a general guide, carbon monoxide alarms are usually installed lower than smoke alarms. The guidance accompanying carbon monoxide alarms should always be followed carefully, including noting the expiry date of the alarm. Carbon monoxide sensors are usually more fragile than those within smoke alarms and usually need to be replaced more regularly.
The requirement for a landlord to ensure that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are present under these Regulations does not replace any duties placed on a landlord under existing legislation, including the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006 and the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
Although fires in the home are reducing overall, the proportion of domestic fires caused by electricity is steadily increasing.
Anything receiving constant use will deteriorate over time and an electrical installation is no different. The electrical installation within rented accommodation is likely to be subject to greater levels of deterioration because of the changes of occupancy. It should therefore be inspected and tested regularly to ensure it is safe for continued use. This test is known as ‘periodic inspection and testing’ (PIT).
PIT is carried out on wiring and fixed electrical equipment to check that they are safe, the test will:
Periodic inspection and testing must be carried out only by a qualified person, such as a registered electrician. The electrician must be competent to carry out a PIT in accordance with the UK standard for the safety of electrical installations, BS 7671 – Requirements for Electrical Installations (IET Wiring Regulations). Further information on finding a qualified electrician can be found at:
Once the PIT has been completed you will be issued with an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR). This report will inform you of any deterioration, defects, dangerous conditions and any non-compliance with the present-day safety standard that might give rise to danger. If no such issues are found the EICR will confirm the electrical installation is satisfactory for continued use.
A landlord is required to have the electrical installation of the dwelling tested every five years unless the requirements of the previous EICR indicate a shorter testing interval is required. Where a shorter interval is recommended the five year period will not apply and a future test must be undertaken at the recommended interval. Failure to do so will mean the dwelling is considered unfit for human habitation.
The current EICR must be made available to the contract-holder within seven days of the occupation date. Where a PIT is carried out after the occupation date the EICR must be provided to the contract-holder within seven days of the inspection date.
In addition, a landlord is also required to provide the contract-holder written confirmation of all investigatory and remedial work carried out on the electrical installation as a result of a PIT. This written confirmation must be provided to the contract-holder within seven days of the occupation date. Where investigatory and remedial work is carried out after the occupation date the written confirmation must be provided within seven days of the landlord receiving this confirmation.
A dwelling which is subject to an occupation contract which converted from an existing contract on the date of implementation will not be subject to the requirements of PIT for a period of twelve months from the date of conversion. This exemption will no longer apply to the dwelling should the converted contract end.
Posted on March 2, 2022