Damp and mould legislation you need to know
The latest government damp and mould guidance is underpinned by existing legislation in UK law to encourage and enforce the continued safety and well-being of tenants in rented accommodation.
We’ve already looked at how this guidance affects:
Now it’s time to analyse damp and mould issues from a housing standards point of view. Anyone involved in the housing industry needs to be aware of landlord obligations, tenant rights and the legal standards that enforce and protect them.
So let’s run through the legislation you run the risk of breaking by allowing damp and mould in properties you manage:
The Legal Standards
Category 1 Hazards and the Housing Act 2004
The Housing Act 2004 mandates that properties must be free from ‘category 1’ level hazards, as defined by the Housing Health and Safety rating system.
A ‘category 1’ hazard means that there is a risk that someone who lives or visits the property might need medical help over the course of a year.
Local councils have the power to intervene even at the ‘category 2’ level to protect tenant health. The Magistrates’ Court has the power to prosecute housing providers and the potential to issue an unlimited fine. Local councils can also demand a financial penalty of up to £20,000.
Conditions that are prejudicial to health and the Environmental Protection Act 1990
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 aims to protect people and the environment from pollutants.
Tenants and local councils have the authority to take legal action if damp and mould constitute a ‘statutory nuisance’. These are defined as pollutants that interfere with the comfortable use of a dwelling and are likely to harm health. This includes uncontrolled mould growth.
The Magistrates’ Court also have the power to prosecute housing providers and the potential to issue an unlimited fine.
Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
New regulations introduced by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 amended the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to set the standard that properties must be hazard-free. This includes issues like severe damp and mould that render the dwelling unsuitable for living. The evaluation of a property’s suitability now considers the current occupant’s perspective. A habitable home must be safe and healthy, devoid of damp and mould. Tenants can take action if their residence breaches these standards, citing Section 9A and Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
Landlords should always promptly address complaints. The courts can order repair works to be carried out and for compensation to be paid to tenants.
Decent Homes Standard (DHS) in Social Housing
Social housing must meet the DHS by ensuring it is free from ‘category 1’ hazards and provides a reasonable degree of thermal comfort. Breaches can lead to enforcement actions by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH).
The government is currently reviewing this standard to include private homes as well as social housing.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards
Privately rented homes must meet minimum energy efficiency standards (Energy Performance Certificate band E) to minimize factors like condensation leading to damp and mould. This could include improvements like:
- Solid floor insulation
- Draught proofing
- Low energy lighting
- Internal or external wall insulation
- Roof insulation
- Solar panels
Local councils enforce compliance and can issue fines of up to £5000.