22 March, 2019
On the 20 March 2019, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force. The Act is aimed at improving housing conditions in the rented sector.
Helpfully, the government has been issued guidance for landlords*.
As the government guidance says, there are no new obligations for landlords under this Act. What has changed is how tenants can take action to get landlords to comply with their existing obligations.
What has changed?
Under the Housing Act 2004 and Environmental Protection Act tenants could previously only take action via Environmental Health or the Magistrates Court in relation to certain defects. Environmental Health Departments are over stretched and tenants living in the most appalling conditions typically could not fund Magistrates Court actions. The new Act is intended to give tenants a more effective means of forcing landlords to fix the defects which could only previously be enforced via Environmental Health and the Magistrates Court.
Tenants can now bring disrepair claims in the County Court in relation to defects which could not previously be included in such claims.
What impact will the Act have?
Whilst the legislation is intended to improve rental properties that are unfit for people to live in, disrepair claims are disproportionately affecting social landlords. Social landlords typically already implement robust procedures for ensuring that their properties are fit for habitation.
We know that our social housing clients were already fixing "hazards" and that they are therefore doing the sort of work falling within the scope of the new act. For example, in houses where there is serious mould growth because of inadequate ventilation, our clients were already installing PIV units and additional extractor fans.
Whether this act will have its intended impact or just make disrepair claims more complex remains to be seen but both social and private landlords alike will need to ensure compliance with the Act now to avoid costly claims later down the line.
Ensuring compliance with the Act is particularly important given the steep rise in disrepair claims in recent years.
Where can you get more information?
We will be publishing further information on the details of the Act.
For guidance specific to your organisation and its current repair procedures, please contact us. Our contact details are below.
* The government guidance for landlords can be found here.
What steps should landlords be taking now?
For social landlords, now is a good time to re-visit repairs policies and procedures, including voids policies and policies relating to access for gas and electrical safety checks.
Our specialist disrepair team is delivering free training to clients and potential clients on request. If you work for a social housing provider and this is something of interest to your organisation, please get in touch with Justine Hunkins.
If you are reviewing your policies or contracts, we can help with that too. For contracts and policies queries, please contact Lachlan McLean.