Confusion reigns over inventory reports and how letting agents and landlords comply with the Homes (Fit for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
That’s the view of No Letting Go, a major provider of inventory services which says that in addition to high profile problems like overcrowding, homes that have unsafe layouts or have been neglected, plus those that contain any of the 29 HHSRS hazards, could be deemed unfit for human habitation.
But No Letting Go says specific HHSRS inventory reports are not required to conform with the legislation.
The HHSRS was introduced in 2006 and provides local authorities with the means to check health and safety in residential properties and identify hazards, with a ‘category 1’ hazard being the most dangerous.
Councils can use the HHSRS to recover costs from landlords for repair works or order them to carry out improvements.
It was recently announced that the government is aiming to reform the HHSRS to 'improve, clarify and modernise' the system, as well as addressing whether some hazard profiles can be removed or combined.
"Since the introduction of new legislation in March, we've seen organisations publishing HHSRS checklists and offering health and safety checks" says Nick Lyons, CEO and Founder of No Letting Go.
"For inventory providers and other industry firms to promise to be able to do this is misleading due to the nature of some of the 29 HHSRS hazards. The new Act is there to make it easier for tenants to prosecute landlords if there is an issue with one of the 29 hazards" he says.
Lyons says that if tenants identify an issue which they believe makes their property unfit for human habitation, they are required to notify the landlord in writing.
The landlord - or a letting agent acting on their behalf - then has 14 days to provide an adequate response in writing to explain how they propose to resolve the issue.
"Providing the issue is dealt with in a timely fashion, there will be no problem for landlords and no further action taken. There is no legal requirement for an HHSRS report to be provided at the start of the tenancy," he says.
No Letting Go says that some of the HHSRS hazards, such as radiation and volatile organic compounds, are not visible or obvious and therefore tricky to fit into a tick box format.
"A good inventory and documented mid-term inspections, alongside efficient maintenance processes, can prevent problems and ensure that letting agents and landlords remain compliant with The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act" adds Lyons.
Some 15 of the 29 HHSRS hazards would be picked up in a good inventory or property visit, according to No Letting Go.
These include damp and mould growth, excess heat or cold, lighting, entry by intruders, food safety, sanitation, water supply and more.
It says the remaining 14 hazards, such as lead in paint, are much less common and it's difficult to see how an agent or landlord could check the property for these issues unless they are specifically trained or raised by the tenant.
"The HHSRS in its current form is complicated, so it's good news that the government has committed to simplifying it" says Lyons.
"Moving forward, a reformed HHSRS will be able to complement independent inventories and legislation like the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act in order to protect the condition of properties and provide renters with a higher standard of accommodation."