With issues of condensation and damp prevalent in rented properties across the UK, Paul Harrington, Head of Residential Sales at Elta Fans, explains how installers can help landlords comply with the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.

With an estimated 20% of the UK population now living in rental accommodation, according to the English Private Landlord Survey, it is inevitable that any new legislation affecting this sector would attract its fair share of attention. Case in point is the heavily publicised Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which will affect most landlords and tenants.

Having come into force earlier this year, the Act seeks to ensure that rented properties are fit for habitation or, in other words, safe, healthy, and free from things that could cause serious harm. 

While we hope that most landlords keep their properties in acceptable condition, this new legislation will ensure that this actually is the case. For example, according to the latest English Housing Survey, in 2017, 13% of dwellings in the social rented sector failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard, which is lower than the proportion of private rented (25%) and owner occupied (19%) homes.

Whether renting privately, from a housing association, or through a local council, the new Homes Act gives tenants more control when it comes to the conditions of their properties.

While manufacturers can help to demystify the new standards, it is actually designers, installers, and building owners who have responsibility under Building Regulations to ensure compliance. 

The link between condensation dampness, mould growth, and adequate ventilation is well established. Therefore, when landlords spot issues like these in their properties, they are likely to seek the advice of suitably qualified and experienced ventilation professionals. As such, it is key for installers to get to grips with the changes so they can advise their customers.

With numerous requirements and guidance documents related to providing ventilation in existing homes, there is a lot of information for installers, building owners, and designers to navigate – and that’s before the new Homes Act is considered. 

While Approved Document F and the accompanying Domestic Ventilation Compliance Guide are often considered the most important documentation relating to ventilation, it’s important to have an understanding of all building regulations and how they interact with each other. 

For example, Approved Document L1B, which relates to the conservation of fuel and power in existing dwellings; Approved Document A, which covers the structural elements of a building; and Approved Document B, detailing fire safety, are all of importance when it comes to the specification and installation of ventilation. 

Before investing in, or even researching, the latest ventilation products and systems, it is crucial for installers to spend time educating themselves on the Building Regulations and guidance documents associated with designing and installing ventilation systems into new and existing homes.

While manufacturers should keep abreast of legislative changes and adapt their products accordingly, in the case of the Homes Act, they aren’t held responsible if a ventilation product isn’t compliant. As such, if an installed ventilation system is discovered to be non-compliant, it could be the installer that is at fault. 

Approved Document F refers to four commonly adopted home ventilation strategies, including background ventilation and intermittent extract fans, continuous mechanical extract ventilation (MEV), Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR), and passive stack ventilation, as well as various alternative approaches such as Positive Input Ventilation (PIV). 

While all of these solutions can be appropriate depending on the situation, installers should pay close attention to the ventilation performance and energy consumption of these techniques to ensure they are compliant. In any case, ventilation should be controllable in order to maintain indoor air quality and avoid wasting energy. 

With the Homes Act making specific reference to ventilation, both landlords and contractors should have a general awareness given that they are likely to be dealing with cases where a tenant claims their ventilation system is inadequate. 

By understanding regulations correctly, while working closely with manufacturers to ensure the products they install are compliant, installers will be well placed to become an asset to their customers.