Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018: A Guide for Landlords
Put simply, the Fitness for Human Habitation Act gives tenants the power to take legal action against their landlords where they have failed to maintain a property.
Under the Act, all landlords in England will need to ensure all of their rented properties and any common parts of the building are fit for human habitation from the beginning of the tenancy.
The Act is an update to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and serves to ensure landlords are meeting their responsibilities.
It also gives tenants a stronger case against any landlords who do not fulfil their obligations to keep their properties in a safe and liveable condition.
A home will be considered ‘fit for human habitation’ by examination of things such as:
- Repairs and defects
- Freedom from damp
- Fire safety
- Water supply
- Facilities for preparing food
- The disposal of waste water
Where a property fails in one area or more it will be considered not reasonably suitable.
The Act does not make landlords responsible for damage caused by tenants or their possessions, but serves to ensure all properties are free of hazards that could result in it becoming uninhabitable.
What is the impact on landlords?
There are no new obligations under the act for landlords, so this shouldn’t affect you if you’re a landlord of properties that are already well looked after.
However, landlords of properties in need of improvement or who have any outstanding obligations to tenants are advised to act promptly, to avoid being faced with legal action.
Groups such as the National Landlords Association have pointed out that landlords who have always acted appropriately should welcome the new legislation, as it may hold less responsible landlords to account and prevent them from undercutting others by renting out inadequate homes at cheaper prices.
Landlords who have been prevented from regulating their properties due to sitting tenants should make themselves familiar with the Act’s provisions.
Equally, landlords who haven’t inspected their properties in a while are best advised to schedule a visit or communicate with their managing agent to check everything is in working order.
Failing to comply with the Act may result in tenants taking court action for breach of contract. Landlords should be aware that if the court decides you have not provided a home fit for habitation, you may be ordered to pay compensation to the tenant or carry out the necessary works to improve the property.
Local authorities will also reserve their right to enforce correct property practice.
What tenants should know
Tenants who signed their tenancy agreement on or after 20 March this year are able to use the Homes Act immediately.
Tenants that signed a contract before this date will not be able to use the Act until 20 March 2020, but should still contact their landlord, managing agent or local authority with any concerns.
Regardless of whether tenants live in social or privately rented housing, a house, flat or bungalow, tenants are able to use the Homes Act to ensure their landlords are acting responsibly and that the rented property is fit for purpose.
Anyone with a licence to occupy instead of a tenancy agreement (such as a lodger) are not covered by the Act.
When it will come into effect and who it will impact
The Act will apply to tenancies shorter than 7 years that were granted on or after 20 March 2019, as well as any new, assured, introductory or renewed fixed term tenancies that were also granted on or after this date. In these instances, the Act applied to these landlords with immediate effect.
From the 20 March 2020, the Act will apply to all periodic tenancies that started before 20 March 2019.
How Keatons can help
Keatons can offer landlords a variety of management services, and are able to provide invaluable help, support and advice when it comes to ensuring your properties are well maintained and safe to live in.
As March 2020 edges closer, our dedicated maintenance team can put you in touch with reliable contractors where repairs are needed and oversee any work on your behalf.
Keatons will also liaise with tenants to ensure any issues are remedied as swiftly and efficiently as possible.