FAMILIES forced to live in mouldy homes could get hundreds of pounds in compensation from their landlord.
It’s estimated that a staggering 1.9million rented households are living with hazards that pose a serious risk to tenants’ health and safety.
Charity Shelter has said the worsening housing crisis is making millions of people sick.
Its stark research found that 26% of all renters are affected by damp and mould.
The charity has warned that the government must “get a grip” on the housing crisis.
Polly Neate, chief executive at Shelter, said: “Millions of renters are living in homes that make them sick because they are mouldy, cold, unaffordable and grossly insecure.”
New rules came into effect last year which should help tenants battling for better living conditions.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force in March 2020 and means landlords must make sure their properties meet certain standards.
It means renters in England and Wales can now take their landlords to court over problems including cold and damp homes.
The rules apply to new tenancies under seven years; new secure, assured and introductory tenancies; and to tenancies renewed for a fixed term.
The rules mean landlords must carry out repairs or rectify problems, and if not renters will have the right to take them to court.
A court can grant an injunction forcing the landlord to carry out work or even award compensation to the tenant.
How do renters get compensation?
How much compensation you get for housing disrepair depends on your circumstances and how bad the problem is.
It is usually calculated as a percentage of the rent you paid while living in the conditions.
A completely uninhabitable property could get 100% of rent as compensation, but this is incredibly rare.
More typically, compensation would be between 25% and 50% of your rent, according to legal experts.
Still, tenants will have to shell out for the court fees unless they’re entitled to free legal aid.
You’ll only get some of your costs back if you win your case.
But mould remains a huge problem for many residents.
Shelter found that 26% of social rents had “significant mould, condensation or damp problems”, equivalent to 3.8 million UK adults.
Other said they struggled to keep their home warm in the winter and regularly had to cut spending on household essentials such as food or heating just to pay the rent.
It comes as millions of people are being hit by a cost of living crunch.
Over recent months, households have seen everything from groceries to petrol prices shoot up.
Energy bills have surged as wholesale gas prices have rocketed and a string of providers have collapsed.
For many families, the situation is so bad they are faced with the choice between heating or eating this winter.
Is your home fit for habitation?
COURTS will decide whether a home is fit for human habitation by considering if the following points apply:
- the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
- the building is unstable
- there’s a serious problem with damp
- it has an unsafe layout
- there’s not enough natural light
- there’s not enough ventilation
- there is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
- there are problems with the drainage or the lavatories
- it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
- or any of the 29 hazards, such as problems with pests, that are set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005
What can you expect from your landlord?
Landlords are expected to make any repairs and fix issues in a reasonable time frame – how quickly depends on the severity of the problem.
An issue that is a “significant risk of danger to the health, safety or security of a tenant” must be sorted within 24 hours.
Problems that “materially affect the comfort or convenience” of the the rent should be seen to within three days.
For less urgent repairs, up to 28 days is considered acceptable.
To make a claim against your landlord, you’ll need evidence including photos of the problems and receipts for anything you’ve had to replace.
If you believe the problem is causing you ill health you’ll need to speak to your GP and get them to confirm this.
Next, you’ll need to get your local council’s environmental health department to inspect you home.
If you think you may need to take you landlord to court, then it’s worth getting help from Citizens Advice.
Different rules are in place for renters in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Visit Citizens Advice Scotland and Northern Ireland Direct for more information.
The widespread issue means one mum feared for her baby’s health because her walls were oozing, while a wheelchair user was stuck in a mouldy home he was not allowed to adapt.
Another mum told how she’d been in the same mouldy home for six years and one renter feared his roof would collapse because of damp.
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