Being a landlord holds many responsibilities; gas and fire safety, ensuring efficient water facilities and responding to any issues that surround these responsibilities, such as call-outs and repairs. However, one factor which may not be high on the radar is radon gas. Unfortunately, radon gas still remains a mystery to most but it certainly doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, which can enter your home from the ground, exposing you to doses of radiation. The radioactive elements formed by the decay of radon can be inhaled and enter our lungs. Inside the lungs, these elements continue to decay and emit radiation, most importantly alpha particles. These are absorbed by the nearby lung tissues and cause localised damage. This damage can lead to lung cancer. The radon level in the air we breathe outside is very low but can be higher inside buildings.
Radon, therefore, is incredibly dangerous and should be treated in such the way we approach carbon monoxide gas. Radon is odourless, tasteless and invisible and the only way to detect it is through radon testing equipment. Each year, there are 1,100 deaths in the UK that are linked to radon, so it is imperative that we test for it.
Landlords have a responsibility to their tenants under Duty of Care and the Housing Act to provide a safe home. Radon is identified as a potential hazard in dwellings in the Housing Act 2004. The need for action is defined by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System which applies a numerical score to the different hazards depending on their overall risk to the occupant. If the score exceeds certain trigger points the local housing authority (Local Authority) is obliged to act. The Local Authority will take the 'appropriate enforcement action' which is dependent on the severity of the risk. The measured annual average radon level is used to calculate the risk.
Check: If you think any of your properties are at risk you should use Public Health England interactive radon map for the UK. This map uses darker colours to indicate which areas are most likely affected by radon gas.
Measure: If you do find that any of the properties that you mange are at risk, you will need to ensure that they are tested. In a domestic test the living area and bedroom are measured for 3 months. The test results are used to calculate the estimated annual average radon level. This level can then be compared to the domestic Action Level (200 Bq m-3) & Target Level (100 Bq m-3) on which advice for further action is based.
Public Health England are happy to work closely with landlords in order to ensure the property can be tested properly and have a number of options to accommodate.
Act: For many properties, no action will be required. Keep the test results for future reference. However, if radon is found to be present at high levels then it can be reduced with simple remedial action.
Once remedial work is complete, test again to check the radon levels have been reduced.
If you are a landlord with a large property portfolio Public Health England have advised that they have services in place to help arrange large scale testing and the ability to schedule testing over multiple financial years.
Landlords should certainly beware, failure to act on a suspected radon gas issue or in fact any issue under the Homes (fitness for human habitation) Act 2018 means the risk of being sued by your tenant. The act also means you are liable for not supplying adequate ventilation and failing to supply freedom from damp.
Therefore, it is now more important than ever that you invest in a ventilation solution for all your properties.
Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) systems create fresh and healthy living environments by supplying fresh, filtered air into a property at a continuous rate throughout a property and is our most popular method of whole house ventilation. Positive ventilation brings fresh air into a home, and dilutes the radon. The flow of air and radon from the ground may also be reduced. A positive ventilation system can be effective in homes with radon levels up to and around 500 Bq m-3.
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