01 November, 2018
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill 2017-19 is currently making its way through Parliament. The Bill seeks to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to ensure rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation, and to amend the Building Act 1984 to provide liability for works on residential accommodation that do not comply with Building Regulations.
Currently there are statutory obligations on landlords to keep in repair the structure and exterior of their properties, and to repair installations for the supply of water, heating and sanitation pursuant to s.11 Landlord and Tenant Act. However, provisions requiring landlords to ensure that their properties are fit for human habitation have ceased to have effect due to obsolete annual rent limits of £52 or less, and £80 or less in London.
The Bill imposes broader responsibilities on landlords going beyond the present s.11 Landlord and Tenant ("LTA") disrepair liability. The Bill will enable tenants to pursue claims relating to substandard housing conditions, for instance, it will include claims relating to condensation and ventilation. When determining whether a house is unfit for human habitation, the following factors will be taken into consideration:
any other matter or matters that may amount to a hazard under section 2 Housing Act 2004 ("HA2004").
The new law will apply to new tenancies after the date the Bill becomes law and is expected to apply to all periodic tenancies from 12 months after the introduction of the Act.
Undoubtedly, the Bill will result in an increase in claims against housing associations. Claims which currently fall short of the section 11 LTA disrepair criteria, may succeed under the Bill. In particular, claims relating to ventilation and condensation which are usually dismissed as being attributable to a tenant's lifestyle as opposed to disrepair. Going forward, we anticipate detailed arguments on these issues and expert reports about the cause of damp. It should be noted however that the Bill does not give tenants carte blanche to bring claims, the Bill contains a number of exemptions including unfitness resulting from "a tenant's failure to use the dwelling in a tenant-like manner".
Housing associations and social landlords should consider assessing their housing stock now to identify any potential risks prior to the implementation of the Bill.