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Fitness for Human Habitation Act: how will the new rules affect landlords?

2-minute read

Mollie Millman

6 March 2020

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More landlords could face legal action with the introduction of new rules giving renters the right to sue if their homes are unsafe.

The Fitness for Human Habitation Act comes into force fully this month (March 2020), giving social and private tenants the right to take their landlord to court.

It applies to homes considered to present a 'serious and immediate risk to a person's health and safety'.

Is the rental home safe to live in?

Tenants will be able to apply directly to court for an injunction to make their landlord carry out maintenance and repair work – or for compensation for their landlord's failure to keep the property safe.

The Fitness for Human Habitation Act first came into force on 20 March last year. Up to now it has only been enforceable on tenancies beginning from that date.

But from now on it includes all tenancy agreements, including social housing. This means any tenants who signed an agreement before March last year can now use the Act to take legal action against their landlord.

Cold and damp housing

The most common hazards are damp and mould, and whether these begin to threaten the mental or physical wellbeing of residents.

Excess cold can also become a hazard when sub-optimal indoor temperatures – below 18°C, according to Public Health England – begin to affect the health of a tenant. The elderly are particularly at risk in this case.

Landlord maintenance obligations

Jessica Hampson of CEL Solicitors said: “Landlords have always had an obligation to maintain their properties for tenants, but this new Act takes it one step further and takes into consideration matters such as natural lighting, damp, ventilation and food preparation and cooking facilities.

“It gives tenants a voice and chance to hold their landlords to account if they are living in, and paying for, substandard accommodation.”

Fitness for Human Habitation Act

She added: “While the majority of landlords comply fully with this law already, there are unfortunately some who do not ensure their tenants’ homes are ‘fit for habitation’.

“Although the law was brought in last March, it was only initially relevant to new tenancies – including contract renewals – so it was largely applicable to private landlords, as social housing contracts tend to be more historical.

“Many landlords were therefore essentially given a ‘buffer’ to quite literally get their houses in order,” she concluded.

Are you concerned about the introduction of the Fitness for Human Habitation Act? Let us know in the comments below.

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