Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 - What you need to know

The Act came into force on 20 March 2019 and 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 is nothing new under this latest legislation and landlords remain responsible for ensuring properties they rent out meet required health and safety standards

Amendments were made to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which requires all landlords to ensure their properties, including any common parts of the building, are fit for human habitation both at the commencement and during the tenancy.

A landlord, or their agent, will need to make sure that the property is free of hazards which are so serious that the house is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition. Where a landlord fails to act to remedy any such issue then the tenant has the right to take the landlord to court for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation.

The consequences are that a court order could be issued requiring the landlord to act to reduce or remove the hazard and/or to compensate the tenant for having to live in a property that was not fit for human habitation.  The new Act applies to the following:

  • tenancies shorter than 7 years that were granted on or after 20 March 2019 (tenancies longer than 7 years that can be terminated by the landlord before the expiry of 7 years shall be treated as if the tenancy was for less than 7 years)
  • new secure, assured and introductory tenancies (on or after 20 March 2019) 
  • tenancies renewed for a fixed term (on or after 20 March 2019)
  • 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

There are some exceptions:

·          Problem caused by tenant behaviour

·          Problem caused by events such as fires, storms, floods which are outside the landlord’s control

·          Problem caused by the tenants’ own possessions

·          The landlord cannot obtain permission to get the works completed

·          The tenant is not an individual

What are the criteria for the new Act?

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 SAFETY RATING SYSTEM

1.         Damp and Mould Growth

2.         Excess cold

3.         Excess heat

4.         Asbestos and manufactured mineral fibres

5.         Biocides

6.         Carbon Monoxide

7.         Lead

8.         Radiation

9.         Uncombusted fuel gas

10.      Volatile organic Compounds

11.      Crowding and space

12.      Entry by intruders

13.      Lighting

14.      Noise

 

15.      Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse

16.      Food Safety

17.      Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage

18.      Water supply

19.      Falls associated with baths

20.      Falls on the level

21.      Falls associated with stairs and steps

22.      Falls between levels

23.      Electrical hazards

24.      Fire

25.      Hot surfaces

26.      Collision and entrapment

27.      Explosions

28.      Ergonomics

29.      Structural collapse and failing elements