Everything you need to know about the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

A private member’s Bill sponsored by Karen Buck MP has received Royal Assent, and so passed into law. The new Act increases the rights of tenants to bring legal action against private and social landlords.

At the close of 2018, Royal Assent was given to a Bill amending the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which requires that all property let by a landlord is ‘fit for human habitation’. The new Act will be brought into force in March of this year.

Earlier in 2018, we reported on the Bill after it received the backing of the House of Commons. Now, it is possible to see exactly what shape the new Act will take and how it will affect tenants and landlords.

Content of the Act

The Act provides that landlords must ensure their properties are fit for human habitation at the commencement of and during any tenancies which are less than seven years in length, including periodic tenancies. This applies to both the private and social housing industries. However, it does not put the onus on landlords to repair the damage created by tenants during that tenant’s lease.

‘Fit for human habitation’ is defined by reference to what is not fit for human habitation. Severe defects can render a property unfit for human habitation if they are “so far defective in one or more of those matters that [the property] is not reasonably suitable in that condition”.

Those matters include:

  • Repair
  • Stability
  • Freedom from damp
  • Internal arrangement
  • Natural light
  • Ventilation
  • Water supply
  • Drainage and sanitation
  • Cooking and food preparation facilities
  • Facilities for the disposal of waste water

All parts of a building which form part of the dwelling which the landlord has an interest in must be up to scratch, including the common areas of blocks or flats, for example.

Potential penalties

If a property is unfit for human habitation under the Act, landlords may be ordered by a court to carry out repairs and/or pay compensation to tenants.

However, a landlord does NOT need to:

  • Rebuild a building which has been destroyed
  • Fix damage caused by tenants
  • Carry out repairs which require third-party consent which they cannot obtain

Previously, landlords could only be forced to carry out repairs by local authorities or by tenants where they had breached specific contract terms in their lease agreements. Under the new legislation, tenants can now bypass their councils and go straight to the courts themselves for aid.

The effect for landlords and tenancies

For tenants living in squalid conditions who find little recourse via their local authorities, the new Act will give them the chance to challenge their landlords directly in court.

For landlords whose properties are of reasonable upkeep, the Act will have little impact. The bar appears to be rather high before ‘unfit for human habitation’ will be declared, although we will have to wait and see case law before we can say precisely where it is set.

Contact our Housing Disrepair Lawyers Liverpool, UK

For specialist legal guidance about housing disrepair and how to make a claim, speak with one of our housing disrepair lawyers today via the online enquiry form.

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