Rented homes fit to live in
Date: September 02, 2019 by idu-net
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 was given Royal Assent in December 2018 and came into force on 20 March 2019 – the “commencement date”.
The new Act amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that both social and privately rented properties in England and Wales meet certain standards – at the beginning and throughout a tenancy. If these standards are not met, tenants have the right to bring a claim against their landlord for breach of contract.
New Act closes loophole
The 1985 Act only required landlords to keep properties “in repair”, as opposed to being “fit for habitation”. If a property had a defect right from the start of the tenancy not classed as “disrepair” (e.g. inadequate ventilation that led to excessive condensation), because the property had never been in a better condition, the landlord was not obliged to do anything. The 2018 Act closes this loophole.
However, certain types of tenancies are exempt from the 2018 Act, including leases granted to registered social landlords, local authorities and the Crown. Agricultural tenancies are also excluded, save for where a property is occupied by an agriculture worker as part of their contract of employment.
There is no set definition of what is meant by a property being “fit for human habitation”. Rather, the wording of the 1985 Act is retained to say that, when determining whether a house is unfit for human habitation, factors such as repair, stability, freedom from damp, natural lighting, ventilation, water supply, drainage and sanitary services and facilities for food preparation/cooking are taken into account.
The 2018 Act adds the further factor of “any prescribed hazard”, defined in section 2(1) of the Housing Act 2004 as a hazard posing a risk of harm to the health or safety of an occupier which arises from a deficiency in the property or as prescribed in regulations. If the property is defective in one of more of these factors such that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition, then it is not fit for human habitation.
Landlord and tenant obligations
While landlords will be required to respond promptly to any complaints made, the 2018 Act does not exclude the tenant from any responsibilities. You will still need to comply you’re your own obligations to repair and keep the property in a fit state. The landlord will not be liable if a property is rendered unfit for habitation due to the tenant’s fault. However, if the landlord does not fulfil their obligations under the new Act, tenants can issue court proceedings against their landlords for breach of the contractual terms implied by the 2018 Act.
Although the 2018 Act gives tenants a meaningful remedy against landlords who fail to provide properties fit to be called homes, hard evidence will be key in making claims. Tenants should notify landlords of problems as soon as they arise and then keep a paper trail of all complaints, including photos and maybe surveyors and medical reports.
If you are living in rented accommodation and want to know more about the new Act visit the IDU Legal website or call the FREE legal helpline on 0333 305 4357.