The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has issued guidance for landlords and tenants on the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
This post will concentrate on the guidance issued to landlords which can be read here.
The Act came into force 20 March 2019 and applies to all tenancies which commence on or after that date immediately. For tenancies that pre date 20 March 2019 landlords are given a 12-month grace period.
The Act strengthens a tenant’s rights against a minority of landlords who do not fulfil their legal obligations by failing to maintain and keep their properties safe. The Act states that there is an implied agreement between a landlord and tenant that the property and any common parts is fit for human habitation at the commencement of the tenancy.
Where a landlord fails to let out a property which is fit for human habitation a tenant has the legal right to take action against the landlord in the courts. Tenants will no longer need to rely on a local authority to assist them. Where the tenant is successful in their court action a landlord could face an order which requires them to take action to reduce or remove the hazard, and/or damages to compensate the tenant for having to live in a property which is not fit for human habitation.
There are some exceptions under the Act which the landlord may be able to rely on:
- The problem is caused by the tenant
- The problem is caused by events such as fire, storm which are completely beyond the landlord’s control
- The problem is caused by the tenant’s possessions
- The landlord has not been able to obtain consent for any works e.g. planning permission, freeholder’s consent. Reasonable efforts must be evidenced.
- The tenant is not an individual e.g. local authority, national parks.
Where tenants refuse landlords access to carry out any works landlords may be in a position to defend themselves against any court action but only where they have evidence of their reasonable efforts to gain access. Legal advice in this situation is strongly advised.
Of course, landlords cannot be held responsible for faults that they have not been made aware of however, where they are advised they should take action within a reasonable period with the tenant’s consent.
This Act imposes no new obligations on landlords but simply requires them to meet their existing responsibilities as landlords renting out properties.