A guide to the Fitness for Human Habitation Act for landlords

The Fitness for Human Habitation Act gives tenants powers to take legal action against landlords for failing to adequately maintain a property.

But responsible landlords have nothing to fear from the new laws, experts have suggested.

Called the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, it will be introduced on March 20 and is aimed at preventing tenants having to tolerate unsafe or unsanitary conditions. This includes damp, poor ventilation and blocked drains.

Which tenancies are covered by the Fitness for Human Habitation Act?

The Act is an update to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and covers all tenancies that are less than seven years – which is almost all tenancies.

The Act determines whether a home is ‘fit for human habitation’ by looking at its condition with regard to things like defects, repairs, stability, freedom from damp, internal arrangement, natural lighting, and ventilation.

It also includes water supply, drainage and sanitary conveniences, and facilities for preparing and cooking food and for the disposal of waste water.

The Act states that a property will be regarded as unfit for human habitation if it is so far defective in one or more of these areas that is it ‘not reasonably suitable in that condition’.

Making homes fit for human habitation

The rules have prompted concerns that ‘rogue’ tenants might try to sue landlords over minor issues.

But landlords who maintain their properties and respond to tenants’ request for repairs have nothing to fear. And according to reputable landlord groups such as the National Landlords Association (NLA), the new rules should be welcomed.

This is because the new Act could prevent less reputable landlords from under-cutting responsible ones by renting sub-standard homes.

The NLA also makes clear that the Act does not make landlords responsible for damage or disrepair caused by a tenant’s behaviour.

It said: “Most landlords should have nothing to worry about in respect of the new Act. A reasonably maintained property should not be deemed unfit.

“Only landlords of properties suffering serious disrepair issues should be affected, and these should be resolved irrespective of new legislation.”

However, it added: “Private landlords responsible for regulated tenancies where repairs and modernisation may have been limited by a sitting tenant need to be aware of the Act’s provisions.”

How can landlords comply with the Fitness for Human Habitation Act?

Landlords who haven’t inspected their rental properties for a while – perhaps because they’re using a managing agent – may find it worthwhile visiting their properties and checking that everything is in order.

This is because the courts will have the authority to order landlords to carry out repairs and they will be able to award damages to tenants.

Do you think the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill is good news for landlords? Let us know in the comments below.

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