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Legal Update: Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

February 12, 2019

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 is coming into force very soon. The purpose of the act is to improve standards in rented properties by imposing an obligation on landlords to keep their properties fit for human habitation at the start and during the tenancy. The act also gives tenants the right to take legal action if their landlords fail to comply with the act.

March 20

What does the act do?

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that any property let by a landlord (whether private or social) is fit for human habitation when a tenancy is granted and remains fit for human habitation during the tenancy.

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 already requires that any property that is let has to be fit for human habitation at the start and throughout the tenancy. However, this provision from the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 only applies to properties with a rent limit of £80 per year in London and £52 per year elsewhere. These figures were set in 1957 and they have not been updated, so they no longer reflect current rental values.

When will the act come into force?

It will come into force on 20 March 2019 and it will only apply to properties in England.

What does the act cover?

The act will apply to all tenancies granted for less than seven years in both the private and social rented sectors. Therefore, tenancies that are for more than seven years are not covered by the act.

The act also will apply to all parts of the dwelling, including any buildings forming part of it in which the landlord has an interest. For example, the common parts of an HMO or block of flats owned by the landlord.

The act will apply to new and renewed periodic tenancies from 20 March 2020.

What does fit for human habitation mean?

In order to determine whether a house is unfit for human habitation, the following factors will be taken into account:

  • repair
  • stability
  • natural lighting
  • ventilation
  • water supply
  • drainage and sanitary conveniences
  • facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
  • any prescribed hazard

What does the Act mean by any prescribed hazard? 

This can include:

  • Damp
  • Excess Cold
  • Excess heat
  • Asbestos
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Crowding and space
  • Noise
  • Food safety (inadequate provisions)
  • Water supply
  • Electrical hazards

Who is responsible?

Landlords are responsible for repairs and to make sure that the property is and remains fit for human habitation during the tenancy. However, landlords will not be responsible for any of the following:

  • Destruction in case of fire, storm, flood;
  • Unfitness caused by the tenant;
  • Repairs that, if done, will be in breach of another act; and
  • Repairs for which landlords cannot obtain third-party consent, for example from the mortgage company.

Right to inspect the property

The act also gives landlords, or a person authorised by the landlord, the right to enter the property to inspect its condition, provided at least 24 hours’ notice in writing has been given and the inspection is at reasonable time of the day.

What happens if landlords do not comply with the act?

Tenants can take legal action in the courts against their landlords for breach of contract. Courts may order landlords to carry out works and/or pay damages to tenants.

Conclusion

Landlords whose properties are well maintained should have nothing to worry about in respect of the Act, only landlords with properties with serious disrepair issues should be concerned.

It will be interesting to see how courts interpret the act, however, we recommend landlords to have a good relationship with their tenants and to keep the channels of communication open, so as soon as tenants become aware of a disrepair, they inform their landlords so it can be promptly repaired.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the content of this article, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Dispute Resolution team.

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Legal Update:  Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

Laura Ramos

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