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Legislation update – Temperature regulations

November 6, 2018 Marishelle Gibson

With legislation constantly changing it is important that we keep our landlords aware of the relevant updates. One piece of legislation coming in is The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill and an important aspect of this new Bill is the significance of a property being too hot or too cold.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill is soon to be passed into law and therefore letting agents and landlords should now be ensuring that the properties are all adherent to the new standards the Bill will set when it becomes law.
The Bill will incorporate the Human Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which is a guideline previously used by local authorities without really enacting much change on a grand scale. Its inclusion in this high-profile piece of legislation, though, should see it adhered to and used to judge whether a property contravenes legislation. There are 29 hazards on the HHSRS list, all of which properties have to adhere to in order to be judged fit for human habitation.
Two of the entries on the list are excess heat and excess cold. This is understandable – if a property is too hot or too cold, it will be difficult to live in comfortably and health problems could develop as a result of a consistent temperature imbalance.
If a property is too cold, especially in winter, it can lead to a range of health problems, with children, the elderly and those already in a physically weak condition particularly at risk. While excess cold can be the cause of less serious ailments like colds and flu, it can quickly lead to more serious problems, like pneumonia, bronchitis and hypothermia, which can kill. A home can become too cold if central heating, water heating and space heating systems and appliances are broken.
Excess heat is particularly dangerous for the elderly, as it is a main cause of dehydration, breathing difficulties and, later on, strokes and heart attacks. A home can become too hot if it has ventilation issues, windows that don’t easily open or a reliance on an air conditioning system which is broken.
A healthy indoor temperature is usually defined as around 21 degrees Celsius.
The interesting aspect to this and important aspect is to ascertain who is responsible for ensuring that a property is a safe temperature. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, states that the landlord is responsible for:
• Keeping in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences)
• Keeping in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for space heating and heating water
This means that the landlord is, at the very least, responsible for:
• Gas and electric boilers
• Water heaters
If either of these fails then the property could become too cold, thus falling foul of the “excess cold” section of the HHSRS list. When the Bill becomes law this would put the Landlord in breach of this as well. The landlord would also be liable under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 for failing to keep to them in repair. Additionally, something like a broken boiler could potentially lead to breaches of other sections of the HHSRS, such as explosions. This would result in further breaches of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill (though only one breach would be enough to see the landlord in trouble).
There are aspects of property maintenance that tenants are responsible for as well, and these will be laid out clearly in the tenancy agreement.
In addition to ensuring the installations specified in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 are all in working order, it is a legal requirement for landlords to carry out gas safety checks on an annual basis. While this is a general requirement because a faulty gas appliance could cause the tenant’s death, on another but no less significant level it could also lead to a property being too cold. Although it could be argued that radiator maintenance comes under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, it is generally considered the tenant’s responsibility to maintain radiators, bleeding them when necessary.
Assuming all heating appliances and installations are working, it is the tenant’s responsibility to keep the property at a stable, warm temperature which will prevent both health problems and the development of damp and mould. This also involves opening windows when required, not drying clothes indoors (if possible) and generally ensuring the property is well ventilated.
If you have any queries relating to the above, or any legislation relevant to letting a property then please call Kate Morton on 02392 632275.