Is your property fit for habitation?

December 21, 2018
Scaffolding and repairs

One of the really odd things about housing law is that up until now there has been no actual legal requirement for a property rented as a home to be fit for human habitation.

Unbelievably, when MP Karen Buck tried to introduce a new law to deal with this a few years ago it was ‘filibustered’ out by certain Tory MPs.  Which,  frankly, did not say a lot about them or their party.

Since then, efforts have been made to get something on the statute book and on 20 December, finally, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 was passed.

About the act

Now I am not going to go into a lot of detail about the act, as you are better off reading Giles Peaker’s post on Nearly Legal as he was part of the team which got the act through.

However here are some of the main points:

  • It will come into force on 20 March 2019
  • It will apply to all new tenancies (including new periodics) created after that date
  • It will imply a clause into all those tenancies that
    • the property will be fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy and
    • It will remain fit for human habitation during the term of the tenancy
  • So if it isn’t, tenants will be able to sue for breach of contract
  • There will be the same sort of exceptions that there are in s11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 ie
    • The landlord won’t be responsible for unfitness caused by the tenants
    • The landlord does not have to rebuild if the property is destroyed by storm, fire etc
    • The landlord does not have to do works if they would put him in breach of any legislation (eg breaching planning permission etc), and
    • If the landlord needs permission from someone (eg the freeholder) to do works but has not got it, he can’t be held liable for not having done them.

‘Fitness’ includes basic standards such as repairs, freedom from damp, and adequate natural light, ventilation, heating, drainage, sanitation and cooking facilities.

So what does this mean for you?

Assuming you are a landlord or agent, hopefully, it won’t mean that much as your properties will all be in tip-top condition anyway!

However, it’s best to make sure of this.

So make sure that all necessary repair and improvement work is done before a property is re-let and make sure you do a proper inspection during the last couple of months of any fixed term (and keep proper records!) AND get any necessary work done before the end of the fixed term.

Assuming the tenants will let you in to do it that is (and if they don’t – keep a record of this as it will mean you are not liable any more).

But so far as you can, make sure if the tenant stays on under a new fixed term or periodic tenancy, that your property is in good condition.

In fact, I would suggest that ALL landlords carry out at least one detailed inspection of their property now or before 20 March 2019.

How can Landlord Law help

Once I (Tessa Shepperson) have had a chance to look at the bill in more detail I will be doing an article on it and will be amending our FAQ and other content.

I am also looking to get someone in to do some training on the new law – probably in one of our regular training webinars.  In fact, this will be covered several times as no doubt Dave Princep will be discussing it a lot in his series on ‘things to check‘.

I also want to complete the Property Inspection Kit I developed and released as a ‘beta product’ earlier this year – as property inspections are going to become ever more important.  This will then be added to Landlord Law content for Business Level members.

To find out more about how the act works, read the Nearly Legal post here.

Important – please check the date of the post above.  Remember if it is an old post, the law may have changed since it was written.