The Act came into force on 20 March 2019. It is designed to ensure that all rented accommodation is fit for human habitation and to strengthen tenants’ means of redress against the minority of landlords who do not fulfil their legal obligations to keep their properties safe.
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.
Overview of the Act.
The Act applies to the social and private rented sectors and requires landlords to ensure that their property, including any common parts of the building, is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. To achieve that, landlords will need to make sure that their property is free of hazards which are so serious that the dwelling is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.
Where a landlord fails to do so, the tenant has the right to take action in the courts for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation. The remedies available to the tenant are an order by the court requiring the landlord to take action to reduce or remove the hazard, and / or damages to compensate them for having to live in a property which was not fit for human habitation.
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
It is for the courts to decide whether the dwelling is fit for human habitation. A Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment is not necessary. However, a landlord might choose to carry out an assessment if they want to establish whether a serious health and safety hazard is present. Landlords of social housing may also have regard to the Decent Homes Standard.
The court may also make a decision on unfitness without expert advice. For example, if there were no plumbed sanitary conveniences in the property an expert opinion would not be necessary as the property would evidently be unfit.
For further information read the Guide for landlords: Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 or visit the website of the Residential Landlords Association