How the Fitness for Human Habitation Act affects Landlords

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act became law on December 20th 2018. One of the major reasons for the passing of the Act was that 38% of people renting in the private sector lived in housing that was officially ‘poor’. A poor home is one in which one of:

  • a serious HHRS hazard (see below) is present;
  • serious damp or mould is evident;
  • or the property is in substantial disrepair.

What the Act covers

Landlords need to ensure that the rented property is fit for human habitation, not only at the start of the tenancy, but also throughout the length of the tenancy. The Act makes it clear that tenants have a right to take legal action if the property falls into a state unfit for human habitation.

An earlier local government guidance paper from 2004 listed 29 hazards in what was call the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). These separate categories were used to determine whether a property was “fit for human habitation”.

It is these HHSR categories that have been carried forward to the new Act.

Here is a brief summary of each category.

Damp and mould growth

House dust mites and mould or fungal growth can lead to breathing difficulties, as well as depression and anxiety.

Excess cold

A healthy indoor temperature is around 21°C. Temperatures below this carry a variety of health risks, especially for the elderly and when the cold lasts for extended periods.

Excess heat

High indoor temperatures for extended periods can lead to cardiovascular issues and the threat of stroke.

Asbestos and MMF

Asbestos and Manufactured Mineral Fibres were formerly used to insulate buildings and are notorious for leading to respiratory problems. Although the effects typically tend to occur a long time after first exposure, inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause damage to the lungs and, in more extreme cases, cancers.

Presence of biocides

Some chemicals which are used to treat timber and mould growth can cause significant issues to building occupants’ health.

Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products

Faulty boilers, among other things, can lead to excess levels of carbon monoxide in a property along with nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and smoke.

Presence of lead

Lead ingestion from paint, water pipes, soil and fumes from leaded petrol can cause lead poisoning.

Presence of radiation

Radon gas, which comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, can enter a home through a basement or cellar floor in an airborne state, but also dissolved in water.

Uncombusted fuel gas

Fuel gas escaping into the atmosphere within a property displaces the oxygen in the air and makes it difficult to breathe.

Volatile organic compounds

A diverse group of organic chemicals, including formaldehyde, that are gaseous at room temperature and can be found in a wide variety of materials in the home, can present a health threat.

Crowding and space

There are many hazards associated with the lack of space needed for normal living, sleeping and general household life.

Entry by intruders

A property must be kept secure against unauthorised entry in terms of entry and exit points.

Inadequate natural lighting

Inadequate natural or artificial light can cause physical and psychological harm.

Excessive exposure to noise

Exposure to noise within the property can cause physical and psychological damage.

Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse

Health hazards here relate to poor design and layout which make it hard to keep a property clean and hygienic, therefore attracting pests, and inadequate and unhygienic provision for storing household waste.

Food safety

Poor facilities provided for the storing, preparation and cooking of food can cause significant hygiene issues.

Sanitation and drainage problems

Poor facilities to promote personal hygiene, including personal and clothes washing facilities, sanitation and drainage, can mean increased threat of infections and threat to mental health.

Water supply

Water contamination by bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemical pollutants causes a significant risk to health when the water is used for drinking, cooking, washing and sanitation.

Falls associated with baths

Falls associated with a bath, shower or similar facility can cause a range of physical injuries.

Falls on level surfaces

Falls on any level surface denote falls indoors, in gardens and on paths, including falls associated with trip steps, thresholds or ramps where the change in level is less than 300mm.

Falls associated with stairs and ramps

Falls associated with stairs and ramps denote falls where the change in level is greater than 300mm. They include internal stairs or ramps within a property, external steps or ramps associated with the property, access to the property and to shared facilities or means of escape from fire, and falls over stairs, ramp or step guarding.

Falls between levels

Falls between levels denote falls from one level to another, inside or outside a dwelling where the difference is more than 300mm. They include falls from balconies, landings or out of windows.

Electrical hazards

There are many electrical hazards associated with faulty equipment or exposed wiring.

Uncontrolled fire

Uncontrolled fire and associated smoke present various threats to health, including injuries from clothing or hair catching fire.

Flames, hot surfaces and materials

Injuries caused by contact with a hot flame or fire, hot objects and non-water based liquids are common. Scalds are caused by contact with hot liquids and vapours.

Collision and entrapment

There is a risk of physical injury from trapping body parts in architectural features, e.g. trapping fingers in doors and windows and colliding with objects such as windows, doors and low ceilings.


There is a physical injury risk from the blast of an explosion, from debris generated by the blast and from partial or total collapse of a building as a result of the explosion.

Poor ergonomics

There is a risk of physical strain associated with functional space and other features at the dwelling.

Structural collapse and falling elements

Inadequate fixing, disrepair or adverse weather conditions can lead to the threat of the dwelling collapsing or part of the fabric being displaced or falling.

For more information on the HHSR categories, take a look at the HHSR Guidance Document available on the government website.