March 20: Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act Comes Into Force

19th March 2019 posted in Landlords Tenants

As a landlord, you are required to be aware of regulations relating to the condition of your rental property and the service you provide to tenants. A new Act, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, comes into effect from the 20th of March 2019, for all new tenancies beginning from this date. However, from the 20th of March of 2020, all existing leases will be impacted by the Act.

The Act has been mentioned a lot by the media of late, and this is down to the fact that the Act provides the right for tenants to sue landlords. Tenants being able to sue landlords is a headline-grabbing aspect of the Act, and it is understandable that some landlords will be concerned about this prospect. If this means that rogue landlords are under more pressure to provide a suitable service to tenants, many people will approve of the Act.

However, it is inevitable that many law-abiding landlords who provide a reasonable service to tenants will have concerns about the implications of the Act.

Are you confident your rental property is fit for human habitation?

The Act creates an obligation for landlords to offer rental property that is fit for human habitation. Homes should be fit at the start of the rental period and throughout the tenancy.

The Act covers the following areas:

•    Does the property suffer from damp?

•    Is there an adequate water supply in the property?

•    Is there sufficient light and ventilation on offer at the house?

•    Is there anything in the dwelling which would constitute a hazard under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System?

When it comes to determining if a property is fit for human habitation, evidence from a surveyor will be considered sufficient. If the property isn’t fit for human habitation, the landlord will be provided with a reasonable period to correct these defects. If the landlord fails to correct these defects in the agreed time, this creates the situation where a tenant could sue a landlord for damages.

If the tenant has caused their property to be uninhabitable, the landlord isn’t responsible

Of course, it may be that the reason for the problems at the property is the fault of the tenant as opposed to the landlord. If the surveyor concludes it is the lifestyle of the tenant that has made the property unfit for human habitation, the landlord will not be responsible for the condition.

With the Act coming into effect for new tenancies this month, it is vital that landlords act as quickly as possible. It is likely that most landlords will not have to undertake a considerable amount of work to ensure their property is fit for human habitation, but it is best to have the property surveyed and have findings or proof of this.

With the Act applying for all rental tenancies from March of 2020, it is crucial that all landlords make themselves aware of the Act and take action to improve the standard of their rental home. The threat of being sued by a tenant isn’t going to impact on most landlords but knowing that the danger exists will hopefully keep landlords motivated in maintaining a good standard of rental property.

If you’re a landlord looking for assistance in maintaining your rental property and providing tenants with the best standard of service, come and speak with Hunters Forest Hill. We are pleased to say that we cover a wide area, with coverage in New Cross, Peckham, Dulwich and Brockley, as well as Forest Hill. If you need help, we are the local specialists you can trust.