Homes (Fitness For Human Habitation) Act 2018
Landlords Be Aware!
Ignorance will not save you!!
The former; Landlord And Tenant Act 1985, was superseded by this new act which came into force on 20th March 2019.
If you are a Private rental Landlord you will probably think, ‘what now’, as so much new legislation and regulation has been directed to the Private Landlord over the last 3 – 4 years not least during the muddle that is Brexit which is having an effect on property values and rental yields. Challenging times for Landlords and now even higher standards are expected of them!
The fact is, nothing has really changed in so much as what a Private Landlord should deliver as a product which is basically, a dwelling that is suitable to live in and provides suitable and safe amenities such as efficient heating and safe electrics that are checked and maintained annually as basic standards. Nothing has changed with the new Act in this respect.
What are the criteria for ‘Fitness for Human Habitation’?
The courts will decide whether a property is fit for human habitation by considering the matters set out in section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. These are whether:
- the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
- the building is unstable
- there’s a serious problem with damp
- it has an unsafe layout
- there’s not enough natural light
- there’s not enough ventilation
- there is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
- there are problems with the drainage or the lavatories
- it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
- or any of the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005
As stated, nothing terribly new in all of this however, and this is from our perspective as a company who works in the Damp ‘Industry’, what is new and we think this is a good thing, is accountability for not delivering these basic standards.
During the countless surveys we have undertaken for Landlords we have encountered what can only be described as conditions that are unfit for Human habitation to the point our own findings are sometimes as such that we would not want our own beloved pets to even have to endure them. You can leave a survey in a poor mindset asking how such conditions can prevail?!
Not that the last statement is prompting an answer or a deluge of angry Landlords berating us because on the flip side, we have also witnessed how some tenants choose to live their lives and the state of ‘mess’ they are happy to live in!!
It is no coincidence the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 has come about not long after the tragedy of Grenfell Tower which in simple terms, came about after years of a Landlords neglect, mismanagement, cost saving procurement’s and no accountability.
What is new about the Act is accountability. It is now deemed that ignorance, lack of knowledge, incompetent tradesmen or lack of action will prevent a Private Landlord from being sued by a Tenant and judged against by the Courts.
Equally, a Tenant has to fulfil their obligations for keeping a property in the suitable condition it is delivered to them in.
The good news, as we see it, is the Act will deliver or should deliver better standards of tenanted property and those that will win through in a competitive market will be the Professional Landlord.
The bad news, as we see it, is the Act has already started to see the emergence of No win – No fee Solicitors taking in Tenants cases to sue their Landlord for compensation for not delivering a fit for purpose dwelling. Currently widely available to Local Authority and Social Housing tenants but the service will work its way into the Private Rental sector.
If a Tenants has nothing to lose, i.e. a Solicitors fee then this potentially will see a significant increase in arbitrary and very spurious claims that from first hand experience, we have been witness to and is very emotionally draining when a Landlord does delivery everything correctly but the court’s still go through the process!
In summary, if you are a Private Landlord, deliver a good product fit for purpose, maintain it correctly and in accordance with regulations. Use competent Trades people. Now you are meeting the Act’s regulations and meeting the law.
If you are a Private Tenant enjoying a property that is fit for purpose, look after it as that is your obligation by law. Don’t bother with a No win – No fee compensation claim for a manufactured or made up complaint as this will stay with you and you will find it hard to rent another property!