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Fitness for Human Habitation Act: What landlords need to know

By Jan Moys

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The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, known as the Homes Act, comes into effect in England on 20th March 2019. So what does this mean for landlords of domestic rented properties? We explain the key features of the new legislation and how this will affect you and your tenant.

What is the Act?

"This new law is a further step to ensure that tenants have the decent homes they deserve." – Heather Wheeler MP, Minister for Housing

The purpose of the Act is to improve standards by putting an obligation on landlords (or agents acting on their behalf) to keep a rental property, including communal parts, in good condition.

It also gives tenants a right to take legal action where their landlord fails to do so. Previously landlords were only open to legal action from the local authority, and not from tenants directly.

This means from the very beginning of a tenancy a landlord must make sure that their property is fit for human habitation, and keep detailed records of all reported issues, subsequent repairs, and undertake regular inspections. Tenants will be able to take direct legal action if their landlord or agent does not comply with the Act.

Does the Act apply to my tenancies?

The new Act applies in England to new tenancies granted on or after 20th March 2019, as well as fixed-term tenancies renewed on or after that date. Existing tenancies will therefore fall under the Act when they are renewed or become periodic. Periodic Tenancies that commenced before 20th March 2019 will come under the scope of the legislation 12 months after commencement, i.e. on 20th March 2020.

What criteria is 'fitness for human habitation' judged on?

Fitness for human habitation is defined in the Section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. These include any issues connected to:

  • Damp and mould growth
  • Natural light availability
  • Ventilation
  • Hot and cold water supply
  • Drainage and sanitary facilities
  • Building structure and integrity
  • Cooking and washing facilities
  • Pests and vermin
  • Food storage facilities

The 29 hazards listed in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System are the yardstick historically used by local authorities when considering a property's fitness for human habitation.

How does the Act affect me as a Landlord?

The most significant impact on landlords will be the consequences of failing to comply with the Act. Once your tenancy falls under the conditions covered by the Act, your tenants are able to take direct legal action against you if they feel that you have failed to provide a rental property that is fit for human habitation.

If the court then decides that you have not provided a property that fit for human habitation, they can make you pay compensation to your tenant and/or make you undertake the necessary works to bring your property up to standard. You may also have to pay your tenant's legal costs.

How we can help

With increasingly regular changes to legislation and tougher standards and conditions being imposed on landlords, expert advice and assistance is more valuable than ever. Below are a few resources to help you stay informed and on top of your responsibilities as a landlord.

  • Our Compliance Guide gives you an overview of the legislation that applies to you as a landlord
  • Let us manage all the legal and administrative details of your tenancies with a full Property Management service, providing 24/7 professional care for your property and tenants
  • To provide our landlords with the highest level of service, Foxtons is a voluntary member of seven codes of practice: The Property Ombudsman, ARLA, NAEA, Tenancy Deposit Protection Scheme, NALS, SAFE and Cyber Essentials
  • Head to our Landlords page for more information on our services and contact details

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