Housing Law And The Heatwave
Since 2018, it has been open to tenants to bring a claim for works and compensation against their landlords where they can show that the conditions at the property are such that it is not fit for human habitation. This was brought about by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 which inserted section 9A into the existing Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (“LTA”) to ensure that the requirement to ensure that a property is fit for habitation is inserted into all tenancies granted for a term of less than 7 years.
Section 10 of the LTA lists issues that, if seriously defective, could give rise to such a claim including stability, repairs, freedom from damp, lighting, ventilation and water supply amongst others. S.10 also includes “any prescribed hazard” which is a broader definition set out in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/housing-health-and-safety-rating-system-guidance-for-landlords-and-property-related-professionals)
For the purposes of this blog I want to focus on the hazard of excess heat which is defined as “threats due to high indoor temperatures” which could give rise to a number of threats to health including dehydration, trauma, stroke, cardiovascular and respiratory illness. At this point in time examples of claims brought against landlords on the basis that properties are unfit for human habitation as a result of excess heat, are very hard to find. However there are a number of factors currently at play which seem likely to lead to an increase in such cases including the fact of new build properties with double glazing and full insulation, rapidly rising temperatures as those being experienced across the UK at present and rising electricity costs making it more difficult to use fans and air conditioning units to cool properties down. It has been established that temperatures above 24 degrees Celsius can begin to be hazardous to health and so where a property is consistently above this and cannot be cooled down, there may well be a problem.
It is important that tenants are aware that if their properties are uncomfortably hot and it is not reasonably possible to control this with the use of ventilation, they should raise this with their landlord and point out that this may be a fitness issue and that steps need to be taken to minimise the heat absorption of the property. There are such measures available and landlords need to be considering these. Many tenants may find themselves simply being told to keep the windows open. This may be a solution in many cases but it is not reasonable to keep windows open all the time and there may be particular factors which mean this cannot happen such as children at risk of falling, noise and other pollution and other health issues in the household. If the property remains unbearably hot even with the windows open then there is clearly another problem that needs addressing.
Over-heating is a very real issue especially at a time like now and tenants should be aware that this is a threat to health and must be treated as such by their landlords.