The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force on 20th March 2019. Its purpose is to ensure that all rental accommodation is fit for human habitation and provides a legal support framework for tenants to challenge landlords who have failed to meet their obligations under the Act.
What the Act Means for Landlords
Landlords already have repairing obligations under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The 2018 Act amends this to ensure that from the start of a tenancy and all the way throughout it, a landlord must ensure that a property is fit for human habitation. That includes any shared or common parts of the building being rented out.
The vast majority of landlords take their obligations seriously and the new Act is intended to target the minority who are not so committed to providing decent living accommodation. The key point of this new Act is that if a landlord fails to take the appropriate action to improve a property when reasonably asked, a tenant has the right to take action, potentially through the courts, because of breach of contract.
The Act will apply immediately to any tenancies that started after 20th March 2019. For tenancies which commenced prior to this, landlords have a 12-month period of grace before the requirements come into effect.
Are There Exceptions to the Act?
There are certain circumstances when the landlord is not liable for repairs or improving living conditions. The most notable is if the problem relating to the property not being fit for human habitation is down to the behaviour of the tenant or because of possessions that the tenant owns. If damage to the property is caused by acts of God such as flooding which are beyond the landlord’s control then they are not affected by the change in legislation.
What Does Fit for Human Habitation Mean?
There are several factors to consider here and understanding them is critical for landlords who want to stay on the right side of the legislation. These are covered in Section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and include a building that is in a neglected or bad condition, has a serious damp issue, doesn’t have a hot and cold water supply or has problems with drainage.
Non-Compliance with the Act
If a tenant believes that their landlord is not complying with the Act and does not put in measures to remedy a problem when asked, they can take them to court on the basis that the tenancy contract has been breached. If the court finds in favour of the tenant, they can force the landlord to carry out the necessary work needed on the property and award the tenant compensation.
Local authorities also have a range of powers that they can use to enforce the Act and tackle other illegal practices by rogue landlords.
Is Your Property Fit for Human Habitation?
Most landlords do everything they can to ensure that their properties meet the requirements of both the Landlord and Tenant Act and the more recent Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.If you have concerns regarding this new Act our property expert team at Northwood are here to provide practical support and guidance. Contact one of our local property experts today to find out how we can help.