The Homes (Fitness For Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force on 20th March 2019. What this means is that landlords and lettings agencies have a legal requirement to ensure that any domestic rented properties meet a minimum standard for tenants to live in. Knowing the details of this legislation will help to make sure that you are properly protected, but also that your tenants can live comfortably and safely in your properties.
This new legislation builds on the responsibilities that are covered by the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act. Essentially it is an agreement where the people responsible for properties can show that they are safe for people to live in and they are properly looked after throughout the period of the tenancy.
The act does not cover exceptional circumstances. For example, if a tenant has wilfully damaged the property that is not the responsibility of the landlord to fix. Likewise, if damage is caused by floods, fire or anything else beyond their control, then this is also not applicable to the landlord to sort out.
If an authority feels that a landlord is not making sufficient effort to make a property habitable, then they can make the landlord pay compensation to the tenant (including legal costs), as well as making them complete any necessary building work in order to make the property habitable. It is possible to appeal, and if a verdict goes your way, then a tenant may pay you legal costs.
This can be done through the local authority, or in the case of social housing then the regulator of social housing or the housing ombudsman may intervene. They will look at the levels of damp, natural lighting, ventilation and hot/cold water supply to see if it is at the right level for people to live in, as well as 29 different types of hazard that are covered by the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005.
Sometimes this may be decided via expert opinion and advice, or if the damage is very clear (for example not fixing pipes, signs of mould on the walls etc.), then prosecution may happen without the need for expert advice.
A court will then decide on how long a landlord will have in order to fix the issues with the property. A landlord should also give reasonable notice to tenants if they need to go into a room or property in order to make any repairs and should do so at a reasonable time.
We can help
It is important to be aware of your responsibilities as a landlord. We can help ensure that you are fully up to date with current legislation, as well as tackling other issues such as how to legally take deposits from a tenant and ensuring any evictions are properly handled. For more information or to discuss your current situation, please contact our specialist legal team today and we will be happy to help.