Issues Covered

Excess Cold

Excess cold is a hazard which covers the threats to health from sub-optimal indoor temperatures. … Of the 29 HHSRS hazard’s excess cold has the highest average scores. In most cases, the average in the Operating Guidance shows a category 1 hazard.

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Asbestos

Exposure to asbestos dust poses a serious threat to health. The presence of asbestos itself is not necessarily a risk, but the main danger is when fibres become loose due to an item containing it being broken or damaged. It has been used extensively in the construction of blocks of flats and is often found in pipe lining and lagging.

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Asthma

A study in 2015 by Exeter University found that the presence of mould in a home doubled the risk of asthma for tenants. Condensation caused by inherent design defects affecting a building often causes black spore mould which puts tenants at risk of respiratory problems including asthma. Tower blocks and maisonettes are significantly affected due to cold bridging. This is because large blocks of concrete conduct cold into the property, leading to condensation forming on the resulting cold spots, causing mould. As this is caused by an underlying design defect then simply washing away the mould will prove futile and the problem will keep reoccurring.

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Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas which can cause serious injury or death. It is colourless, odourless, tasteless, and upon entering the body it prevents the blood from taking oxygen to the cells, tissues, and organs. The main cause of carbon monoxide poisoning is gas appliances in a state of disrepair.

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Condensation

Condensation dampness arises when a property is unable to deal with the amount of water vapour being generated. The presence of condensation can cause mould growth, excessive humidity and insect infestation. As previously mentioned in relation to asthma, mould growth poses a significant threat to health. The law did not previously cover condensation unless it was caused by disrepair. Recent changes to the law which came into force 20 March 2020 mean that legal action can be taken for condensation rendering a property unfit for human habitation. Therefore condensation caused by design defects affecting many buildings, particularly tower blocks and maisonettes can be rectified and compensation secured.

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Damp other than condensation

Damp is a common problem affecting many homes and comes in different forms. Rising damp is often caused by a damaged or defective damp proof course allowing water to enter the property. Penetrating damp is caused by issues such as defective brickwork, roofing or windows causing water ingress. Damp can also be caused by other issues such as floods and excessive condensation. Legal action can be taken regarding damp, due to it rendering a property unfit for human habitation. This is because damp poses a serious risk to health and can cause respiratory problems.

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Drains and sewers

If your home is flooded by water or sewage from drains or sewers then legal action can be taken. Remedial action can also be enforced where a drain or sewer becomes prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

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Electrical safety

Electrical installations must be kept in working order by your landlord and enforcement action can be taken if they render your property unfit for human habitation. Water ingress or damp in areas adjacent to electrical appliances and sockets pose an obvious and immediate risk of electrocution and constitute an emergency repair. Extensive measures can be taken to promptly enforce repairs where there is a risk of injury.

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Fire and smoke

Landlords are required to maintain existing fire escapes and if there is a risk to health and safety then legal action can be taken to resolve the problem. Cladding used for insulation can constitute a serious fire hazard and result in tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower disaster.

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Gas safety

Gas supply and appliances are a significant danger to health and poorly fitted or defective fittings and appliances can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. If there is a risk to your safety then extensive measures can be taken to enforce repairs or remove all occupants from the affected property. If you suffer injury or a significant risk of injury then this can constitute a criminal offence and severe penalties imposed.

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Infestations/ Vermin

Infestations by ants, cockroaches, mice and rats are not uncommon. Aside from the inconvenience and distress caused, this can also be prejudicial to the health of occupants. If the infestation is caused by disrepair or renders your property unfit for human habitation then remedial action can be enforced.

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Refuse

In multi storey blocks of flats, problems are often caused when rubbish chutes and bins are not cleared of refuse. Aside from being unpleasant, this can also attract vermin which is prejudicial to health. If this poses a threat to your health or renders your property unfit for human habitation then legal action can be taken.

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Sanitary installations

Sanitary installations must be kept in proper working order. If conditions become prejudicial to health, a nuisance, or render the property unfit for human habitation, then the necessary repairs can be enforced.

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Services (gas, water and electricity)

Landlords are required to keep in repair and working order the installations in your property for the supply of gas, electricity and water. These constitute emergency repairs and remedial action can be enforced promptly if you experience problems with these services.

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