Welsh (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act

Staying on top of the living and safety conditions for tenants in properties is imperative for any landlord. This also includes staying on top of the rules and regulations – both present and upcoming.

The newest regulation to get up to speed with is the Welsh (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, which comes into effect on 15th July 2022. However, if a property is already tenanted at the time of implementation and continues to be, then landlords will have a year to comply and be expected to meet the requirements by July 15th, 2023. If at any time throughout that year that the property has a change of tenancy, then this will bring the date forward, and the property will have to be in alignment with requirements sooner.

The act applies to all landlords, both social and private. Knowledge and understanding, as always, are key here – so let’s break down the new rules and regulations to prepare effectively.

What does the Welsh (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act cover?

In order to make sure a property is fit for human habitation, landlords are to meet 29 requirements set out in Part 1 of the FFHH act. From damp (Point 1) to drainage (Point 17), these hazards are listed in full by the Welsh government. Each is listed with examples, causes, and actions for landlords to take.

Where fire safety is concerned, Point 24 details risks such as sources of ignition, fuel, and electrical equipment, including threats from accidental (as opposed to arson) uncontrolled fire and smoke.

Reading further, Point 25 looks at flames and hot surfaces. This is something for every landlord to consider, but those with student accommodations (where scented candles and cigarettes can be common) are wise to take extra precautions to prevent risks. 

Part 2 of the act covers three specific landlord requirements, which help prevent the matters and circumstances set out in Part 1 from arising. Where a landlord fails to comply with these requirements, the dwelling is deemed unfit for human habitation.

What are the three requirements imposed on a landlord?

In order for landlords to comply with the Welsh (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, they must ensure the following:

1. Smoke alarms present and in proper working order, on every storey

It’s crucial that landlords fit and regularly test smoke alarms installed in their property. The FFHH act requires a functioning smoke alarm on every storey of a dwelling. Sometimes a property may need more than one – for example, fitting an extra heat alarm in a kitchen to detect an increase in temperature, rather than smoke. Landlords must also ensure all smoke alarms are interlinked and connected to the electricity supply. Once the minimum requirement has been met, additional battery-operated smoke alarms can be installed if necessary (but the FFHH act doesn’t require these to be interlinked). Landlords should look to BS 5839 for guidance on the proper fitting of smoke alarms in domestic properties.

2. Carbon monoxide detectors in proper working order

Since carbon monoxide has no scent, taste or visual appearance, a proper working carbon monoxide detector is likely the only warning a tenant will get in the presence of the ‘silent killer’. It’s not enough to carry out annual tests for carbon monoxide – there needs to be an acceptably functioning carbon monoxide detector in every house. Placement of carbon monoxide alarms is important – they should be in any room which has a gas, oil, or solid fuel burning appliance. They’re most effective when installed lower than smoke alarms – since carbon monoxide could reach lethal levels before reaching ceiling height.

This requirement does not replace landlord duties listed under existing legislation, including the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006 and the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

3. Regular inspections and tests of electrical installation

While fires in homes are reducing on a whole, those caused by electricity are steadily increasing. Landlords are required to inspect and test electrical equipment regularly to make sure it’s safe for continued use. Known as periodic inspection and testing (PIT), these safety checks will reveal if there are any fire hazards, electric shock risks, or overloading within circuitry and equipment, to name a few. Periodic inspection and testing must be carried out by a qualified person – namely a registered electrician – and in accordance with the UK standard for the safety of electrical installations BS 7671 before an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) is issued. Landlords are required to have the electrical installation tested every five years, unless the results of the EICR dictate otherwise.

The content of this article is for general information purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, under no circumstances should it be considered professional advice. Any reliance you place on the information is at your own risk. Always seek the advice of a fire professional for your particular circumstances and requirements.

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