Is your rental property legal

Is your rented property fit for human habitation?

| Published on May 17, 2019

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (‘the Homes Act’) came into force on 20 March 2019 and requires that residential rented accommodation in England is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation. The Homes Act was introduced as a result of increasing concern over housing standards, particularly in the private rented sector, and then in the social housing sector after the fire at Grenfell Tower.

Prior to this new law coming in there were already obligations on landlords, for certain residential tenancies of a term less than seven years, to:

  • Keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house. This includes the drains, external pipes, gutters and external windows;
  • Keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity and for sanitation. This includes the basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences, but not other fixtures, fittings and appliances for making use of the supply of water, gas or electricity; and
  • Keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.

Now, in addition to those obligations, a landlord must also ensure that their properties are fit for human habitation.

What is ‘fit for human habitation’?

A house or dwelling will be considered unfit for human habitation if it is so far defective in one or more of the following matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition:

  • Repair
  • Stability
  • Freedom from damp
  • Internal arrangement
  • Natural lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Water supply
  • Drainage and sanitary conveniences
  • Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water; and
  • Any prescribed hazard e.g. this includes mould growth, excess cold or heat, crowding and space, entry by intruders, structural risks, etc.

Most landlords will be ensuring their properties are in good repair anyway but the Homes Act also gives tenants (of inadequate properties) a direct right of recourse against their landlords through court proceedings, rather than having to rely on a Local Housing Authority to take enforcement action on their behalf.

What should I do?

It is essential that the landlord inspects its property thoroughly to ensure it is fit for human habitation before any new letting and carry out any works that are needed beforehand. It is also advisable to carry out regular inspections throughout the term to ensure that the property stays fit for human habitation and to keep accurate records of inspections and any works carried out. This also applies to common parts of the property.

Landlords of periodic tenancies (where the fixed term has come to an end but the tenant remains in occupation) will have one year to ensure compliance (20 March 2020) and will then have to remain fit for human habitation during the rest of the term.

If a landlord fails to make a property fit for human habitation, the tenant has the right to apply to court for damages or an order requiring the landlord to make the property fit for human habitation.

The Local Housing Authority may also decide to take enforcement action, by issuing an improvement notice or an emergency remedial action notice, even if the tenant issues proceedings against the landlord.

For more information on matters such as these, visit our property litigation page.

Article author: Michelle Dixon, Poole Office

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