The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill

Another piece of lettings regulation is due to come into force on 20th March 2019.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill has seems to have largely gone under the radar, being left a little in the shadows of the more newsworthy Tenant Fee Bill. The bill has passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent, making it law.

The new act amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that any property let by a landlord (private or social) is fit for human habitation when a tenancy is granted and remains so for its duration.

How it Started…

The bill was originally put forward by Labour MP Karen Buck who felt that there was a need to give tenants the right to sue their landlords to deal with the problems in unfit properties. Following the bill’s second reading, an additional “Grenfell” clause was added extending its provisions to cover common areas of a building, like hallways and stairs, but it would also apply to, for example, dangerous or flammable exterior cladding.

“Landlords have no obligation to make properties fit for human habitation such as dealing with fire safety or inadequate ventilation. Local authorities can enforce fitness for human habitation under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System but it’s a postcode lottery if whether a council will take these steps. This bill will enable all tenants to take action against landlords who don’t ensure their homes are fit for habitation and claim compensation if landlords do not do so.” said Buck.

When does the Bill commence?

The bill has passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent, making it law. The Act is to come into force from 20 March 2019.

What does the Act cover?

The Act covers all tenancies less than seven years in length in both the social and private rented sectors.

The requirement includes the dwelling let to a tenant and all parts of any building it forms a part of, in which the landlord has an interest. For example the common parts of an HMO or block of flats owned by the landlord.

It will extend to all existing tenancies which meet this criteria, including periodic tenancies and legacy regulated tenancies.

What does Fit for Human Habitation mean?

The Act, or rather the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which it amends, outlines fitness for habitation by virtue of what constitutes a property unfit for human habitation.

A property will be unfit for habitation if there are serious defects in any of the following:

  • Repair
  • Stability
  • Freedom from damp
  • Internal arrangement
  • Natural lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Water supply
  • Drainage and sanitary conveniences; and
  • Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water.

The Act goes on to say: “the house shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable in that condition”

Who is responsible for Fitness for Habitation?

In most circumstances the landlord. However, the Act does not make landlords responsible for damage or disrepair caused by the tenants’ behaviour.

What happens if a property is Unfit for Human Habitation?

If a home does not meet the standard of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), tenants will have the right to take legal action in the courts, for breach of contract. Provided it is their responsibility, the landlord should carry out such works to put the issue right although there are some exemptions.

The landlord is not obliged to:

  • Rebuild or reinstate a destroyed building
  • Put right unfitness the tenant is responsible for causing
  • Carry out works which are the responsibility of a superior landlord, or for which they cannot obtain third-party consent

Claims may be brought before the court, where a landlord may be ordered to carry out works, and damages awarded.

Most landlords should have nothing to worry about in respect of the new act. A reasonably maintained property should not be deemed unfit. Only landlords of properties suffering serious disrepair issues should be affected, and these should be resolved irrespective of new legislation.

However, private landlords responsible for regulated tenancies where repair and modernisation may have been limited by a sitting tenant need be aware of the Act’s provisions.

As with any new regulations time will tell exactly how it is interpreted by the courts.

If you have any questions regarding the Bill, please contact us on 01332 300196.