Unscrupulous Landlords Face Legal Action if Property is Found Unfit

News at Newton Fallowell | 12/08/2019


Unscrupulous Landlords Face Legal Action if Property is Found Unfit

The issue of quality control in the property rental sector has long been a problem. While the vast majority of landlords take their responsibilities and duty of care towards their tenants seriously, there are some who are less scrupulous.

Tales of poor living conditions, retaliatory rent rises, and threats of eviction are unfortunately more common than we often like to think. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 was introduced to go some way to addressing this problem.

Unscrupulous landlords now face legal action if the property they rent out is found to be unfit. Here we take a closer look at the legislation and what it means for landlords.

What is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018?

The act is designed to apply to both private and social rental sectors and has one central theme. Landlords must ensure that their property, and any shared areas therein, are maintained and kept fit for human habitation. This applies from the beginning of the tenancy agreement right through to the end.

The act came into force in March this year. For those landlords with existing tenancies, there is a 12-month grace period to put any issues right but after that, they need to comply. For new tenancies, the Act applies immediately. It applies to all:

·         Secured, introductory and assured tenancies.

·         Tenancies that are under 7 years and were agreed on or after the March 20th2019.

·         Tenancies that have been renewed for a fixed term after the implementation date.

·         Tenancies that started before March 20th 2019 compliance must be achieved by 20th March 2020.  

The act doesn’t cover people who, for example, are lodgers or those that live in temporary accommodation that is covered under licences to occupy.

When it comes to unfitness of the property, there are certain circumstances where the landlord will not be deemed responsible. The first is if the unsatisfactory conditions are caused by the tenant themselves or their possessions. Acts of God such as floods or fires are also excluded.

It the landlord has made all reasonable efforts to get permission for changes that will improve the property, but these have been refused, for example, by the freeholder, then they are not liable.

What Does Fit for Human Habitation Mean?

The crucial point of the act is that tenants can now take their landlord to court if they believe the property is not fit for human habitation. This is something that will be decided based on what is currently outlined in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. It includes buildings that are neglected and in poor or unsafe condition, buildings that have structural damage, problems with damp that may cause health issues, lack of natural light and ventilation, problems with the drainage or lavatories and properties with no hot water supply. Or indeed, any of the 29 hazards laid out in the Housing and Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005

What Are the Landlord’s Responsibilities?

Once the problem has been raised by the tenant, the landlord is legally considered responsible and has a to rectify the issue within a reasonable time frame. Any delay could lead to the tenant taking the matter to court.

The court can then decide to issue a compulsory order to improve the living conditions in the property and also award compensation to the tenant if they feel it is appropriate.

Help and Advice

Should you have concerns about the Homes Act 2018 and your responsibilities as a landlord contact one of our local property experts, we have offices across the Midlands, from Telford in the west to Boston in the east.