On the 20th March 2019, the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill became law in the UK. Sounds a bit daunting right? When we think of homes that are unfit for habitation we imagine properties that have been left untouched for decades with multiple defects, falling down walls and in some cases no doors, floorboards or working amenities whatsoever.
The truth of the matter though is whilst yes, all of these things would make a home uninhabitable there are so many minor offences landlords make (many time unknowingly) that cause homes to be unfit for tenanted living in. We answer some key questions you might have about the bill before it comes in in a few days time before offering a full guide for landlords when the bill has come into place..
What makes a home unfit for habitation?
In short, the government has drawn up a list of areas that a home can be unfit for living in relation to and if any property shows poor condition in any of the areas, and is also deemed a health and safety risk, then it will be deemed unfit for living. Importantly, the condition of the property is judged based on the residing tenant, rather than solely the property – so, if for example a young couple lived in the property, some things that are deemed a health and safety risk may be very different to an elderly woman living on her own; this will be considered when judging. The ten areas are:
· freedom from damp,
· internal arrangement,
· natural lighting,
· 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.
Am I, as a landlord, responsible to carry out works in all cases?
This is a bit of a difficult one to answer because in most cases – yes the landlord is the one who should be fixing the damages or fixing the poor condition of any of the above areas. That being said though, there are some exceptions to the rule that are worth knowing; landlords are not responsible for:
· defects caused by the tenant's negligence or intentional damage – we would recommend you have a proper inventory with photos to combat any false claims in relation to this
· rebuilding the property or parts of the property that have been damaged due to poor weather or adverse catastrophe
· repairing any items that the tenant owns or will remove from the property at the end of the tenancy
· completing any works that the “head landlord” would not authorise
By having a managing agent like Hunters where we look after your property properly, you can reduce the risk of getting any of this wrong. We would recommend with more and more regulation coming, you consider that, if you do let out any properties to tenants, you ask your agent about this bill to make sure you are fully compliant. For more information about the bill, how you can comply and the risks of not doing so – head to the Government website.