A new law for England that makes sure landlords offer tenants homes that are fit to live in is about to kick in – but most landlords are unaware that their properties are caught by the rules.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 is aimed at encouraging landlords to provide better rented homes and offers tenants a way to claim redress through the courts if their home fails to meet safety and living standards.
Introduced to new tenancies or renewals from March 2019, the rules will extend to all periodic tenancies from March 20, 2020.
… from the 20 March 2020 the Act will apply to all periodic tenancies. This is all tenancies that started before 20 March 2019; in this instance landlords will have 12 months from the commencement date of the Act before the requirement comes into force …
For example, a fixed term 2 year tenancy beginning 10 March 2019 won’t be caught till renewal or periodic on 10 March 2021.
If a tenant complains a home is not fit to live in and a landlord fails to act, the case goes to a civil court where a judge measures the living standards against a list of unacceptable factors, which include:
- 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
- Any of the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005
No penalties are set down in the act, but the court can make an award for:
- General damages – awarded for harm, discomfort, loss of enjoyment, pain and suffering, shock, physical injury, distress or inconvenience
- Special damages – including the value of any possessions damaged by the unfitness, the cost of works carried out by a tenant and, if a tenant had to move out because of the disrepair, the cost of alternative accommodation
A court can also order compulsory work to improve the home.
“There are no new obligations for landlords under this Act; the legislation requires landlords to ensure that they are meeting their existing responsibilities with regards to property standards and safety,” says the housing ministry.