We take more than 20,000 breaths each day, and it’s believed that around 90% of them are taken indoors.
Because of this, we all need our inside spaces to be conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
We have to have familiar and comfortable environments to live, to relax and re-energise after our working day is done. And to achieve that our homes need to be fit for human habitation. Otherwise, the place that is meant to be your sanctuary could actually be contributing to a downturn in your physical and mental health.
Nearly half of UK tenants who live in local authority or housing association properties claim to have suffered health problems or injuries as a direct result of conditions in their home.
And if you are one of them it’s high time you acted for the sake of yourself and your family.
Breathing poor quality air can have a devastating effect on our health. Our homes should be central to our well-being, supporting our quality of life, rather than degrading it.
So, how can you tell if your home is benefiting you and your loved ones? Your residence does not need to be a ‘show home’ to enhance your life. But, at the very least, it should be safe and hygienic – ‘habitable’, in other words. The government’s Guide for Tenants: Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 has more details on what you can expect from your landlord.
A clean and secure living environment is key to sustaining your health and minimising the risk to your physical and mental well-being.
And the principles of a healthy home can come down to five primary factors:
- A continuous supply of clean air
- Proper sealing and insulating to minimise ‘bad air’
- Eliminating non-toxic materials and products
- Cleanable surfaces
- Healthy home habits.
Clean air supply
You may or may not be surprised that the air you breathe inside your home isn’t ‘fresh’, it’s merely a concentrated, condensed version of the air outside your four walls.
For starters, what circulates around your home includes pollution and pollen, not to mention the air creeping up from crawl spaces (these are essentially buffers between the bottom of the house and the ground beneath it) through heating and cooling systems and any cracks in the exterior.
Good ventilation, whether that is through mechanical systems or simply opening windows, is key.
Sealing and insulation
Any home contains some spaces that are meant to be lived in and some that aren’t. It’s important to keep ‘bad air’ and moisture away from your living areas by eliminating air leaks from basements, lofts and crawl spaces as well as gaps in your walls and floors.
Those damp, dark, musty spaces emit air that you really don’t want in your main living spaces. Sealing off any such spaces with non-toxic foam, caulk and moisture barriers such as breathable membranes helps to improve the air quality, as well as stopping pests from accessing your rooms.
Proper, efficient insulation may make your home more comfortable to live in, it also helps to prevent those colder areas of a building that causes damp, and in turn, unhealthy air.
Non-toxic materials and products
Consider the exposure you and your loved ones have to toxins in the home. Your building contains countless different materials and those different materials – the human body being one of them – require a plethora of cleaning products.
When you think about the many different cleaners, detergents, pesticides, fragrances and hygiene and personal care products regularly in use in the home they are bound to have some effect on what you are breathing on a daily basis.
Fabrics are potentially breeding grounds for bacteria, dust mites, insects and allergens. It may not be possible, and almost certainly not practical, to replace your carpets and curtains with laminate flooring and blinds as a tenant but regular vacuuming and laundering is a must. And, once again, those crawl spaces and basements are coming to the fore, even if they are unused and never entered.
It is estimated that 40% of the air you breathe at home is sucked up from those underground areas and it brings damp, odours, soil gasses, dirt and dust with it.
Healthy home habits
A healthy home needs its inhabitants to get into healthy habits. Extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom are there to help reduce cooking smells and damp from bathing respectively. Your carpets should be given a going-over with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum at least once a week, and more frequently for those with pets.
Other habits that are easy to develop but that make a big difference include taking off your shoes when you get home, changing your various cooker hood and furnace filters regularly and taking the time to dust those easily-ignored areas with a microfibre cloth, such as the tops of doors, window frames, picture frames and ceiling fans.
So, it’s clear to see that a well-maintained home and its facilities are vital for its occupants to live safely, securely and hygienically. It’s the right of all renters, whether they rent privately or live in social housing. If conditions or the safety of your home are so poor that it makes it unreasonable for you to live there you could be entitled to claim compensation.
Housing associations have recently reported a 400% increase in housing disrepair claims.
While this may seem like a massive surge, it is perhaps unsurprising given that 20% of UK homes don’t meet the government’s ‘Decent Homes Standard’. The guide demands that a home be maintained in a reasonable condition, have reasonably modern facilities and provide tenants with a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.
Your next steps
A clean, hygienic living environment is key to sustaining and improving your health and wellbeing. If your landlord falls below these standards it’s important to know what you should do.
The first thing to bear in mind is that, as the tenant, you need to report the problem to your landlord, and gave them reasonable time to address and redress them. By law, you will need to give your local authority or housing association 21 days before you can consider making a housing disrepair claim.
Hopefully your home’s issues are not long-standing. But, if you have been putting up with disrepair for any length of time, hopefully you have been compiling evidence. Proof of correspondence and any expert statements you can get hold of would be ideal.
To strengthen your case you could consider gathering:
- Copies of proof that you have tried to contact your landlord (such as screenshots of text messages, emails, phone call logs) and you have given them enough time to reply and/or arrange repairs.
- Surveys or reports from an Environmental Health officer or similar expert.
- Medical or GP notes that clearly show the affect your living conditions have had on your health.
- Copies of any correspondence between you and your landlord regarding unresolved issues.
- Photographs which illustrate the nature and scale of the disrepair.
- Details of property inspections (these should be carried out annually) together with dates of when a landlord did visit the property and would have acknowledged the issues present.
- Receipts for your replacing items that had been damaged or destroyed by the problem.
- A copy of your tenancy agreement.
You also need to prove that the property suffered from defects which caused you injury or led to a particular health issue, and that the landlord was made aware of your concerns. Crucially, you need to be able to illustrate that they failed to take the necessary measures to resolve the disrepair problems.
Finally, we’d like to assure council or housing association tenants that you cannot be evicted for making a claim against your landlord under Section 11 of the Housing Act.
So, if you and your family have been forced to live in a home that’s in an unfit state, we can help. If your health has suffered because of disrepair to your house, see what we can do to assist you.
Barings Law’s team of experts can prepare a compensation claim tailored towards maximising the money to you for your home’s state of disrepair.
We work on a no-win no-fee basis, so that we can fight for justice for everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances.
Call Barings Law on 0161 200 9960 for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experts.