The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
What is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018?
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (the Act) considerably changes a landlord’s obligations to its tenants and so it is important for landlords to understand these changes.
The Act came into force on 20 March 2019 and amends the existing legislation contained within sections 8 and 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (the LTA 1985) by introducing new requirements which impose an ongoing "fitness for human habitation" obligation on landlords of residential properties.
What changes does the Act make?
Prior to the enforcement of the Act, under the LTA 1985, landlords were only liable for repairing items that were actually in disrepair. For instance, a landlord would not have previously been obliged to repair inadequate ventilation that was not in disrepair, however this may now fall within the Act. The obligation is for the landlord to put and keep the property in a fit state for human habitation.
How does the Act apply?
From 20 March 2020, the Act will apply to all existing residential leases with terms of less than seven years. The Act applies to all social and private sector landlords (or agents acting on their behalf), who must take steps to ensure that any rented property is fit for human habitation at the beginning, and throughout the duration of the tenancy period.
What is “fitness for human habitation”?
Section 10 LTA 1985 did not explicitly define "fit for human habitation", however, in determining whether a dwelling is fit for human habitation, regard should be given to the following matters: 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 waste water, in relation to a dwelling in England, any prescribed hazard.
Tenants can now take action in respect of one or more of the above defects, but the property shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation only if it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.
Why is it important for landlords to be aware of the Act?
Due to the forthcoming wide application of the Act, a review of legal documents between landlords and their managing agents or contractors would be sensible. The Act widens the kinds of issues that landlords will have to concern themselves with, and means that landlords will be obliged to undertake improvements instead of just repairs that also includes any matter that amounts to a “prescribed hazard” under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) regulations. If these requirements are not met, then tenants have the right to bring a claim against the landlord for breach of contract. Although the Act does not require tenants to serve notice of a breach, it is likely that the landlord's liability under the Act will only arise once it has received notice of the tenant's complaint. However, this point will need to be clarified by the courts.
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