Are your properties Fit for Habitation?

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23 March, 2020

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 ("the Act") came into force on 20 March 2019, amending the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The Act automatically applies to new tenancy agreements that are for a term of 7 years or less and applies to all periodic tenancies from 20 March 2020 ("the Commencement Date"). All landlords with properties let with tenancies must now comply.

There are no additional obligations on a landlord under the Act, but there is an implied agreement between the landlord and tenant that the property will be fit for human habitation from the beginning of the tenancy and throughout.

The court will consider the following when determining if the property is unfit for human habitation (section 10, Landlord and Tenant Act 1985):

  • 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 wastewater.

The Act also adds any prescribed hazard (if the property is in England) to this list. The relevant hazards are set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005.

If a property is considered unfit, the tenant has the right to bring a claim against their landlord for breach of contract. If a landlord does not comply, and an action is brought, they may be ordered to carry out the works to improve the property and the tenant may also be awarded compensation.

In carrying out improvement works, the landlord must give adequate notice of at least 24 hours (unless in an emergency) and arrange access at a "reasonable" time. The question of reasonableness should be assessed on an individual basis, taking into account personal factors where applicable.

There are some situations in which the landlord is not required to carry out works to the property. This could be if the problem is caused by the tenant, by acts beyond the landlord's control, or if the landlord is unable to obtain consent to carry out the works, such as planning consent or a Freeholder's consent.

It can be argued that the Act was passed as a response to the Grenfell Tower fire, placing a greater focus on the landlord's responsibilities to their tenants. The result of the Act should be a standard imposed across all properties, as all landlords, both private and social, are held to the same level of accountability.

Landlords should review their stock to ensure that properties that may be affected by these matters are dealt with appropriately, this should be done before a tenancy is created. The landlord should also ensure that they arrange for any required works to improve a property to be carried out as soon as they are notified of the hazard by the tenant. They will need to maintain accurate and up to date records relating to repairs, as they may be brought into question in court if an action is brought.

Government guidance to assist both landlords and tenants in relation to the legislation is available here.

For more information contact Zayna Ibrahim in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01772 220226. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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