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Is your rental property ‘fit for human habitation’?

There is a new act of parliament called Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 that came into force in March.

The new law is designed to ensure that all rented accommodation in England and Wales is fit for human habitation. The law is there to enhance a tenant’s ability to obtain redress (including compensation) against those landlords whose properties fail to meet the minimum requirements.

For those landlords that already rent out properties to tenants to a high standard, there should be nothing to worry about. The law may prove troubling for a small minority of landlords that fail to rent out properties that do not meet the minimum standard.

In all tenancy agreements from 20 March 2019, there is now an implied term that the property being rented out will be “fit for human habitation”. The law gives tenants the power to seek redress from their landlords without having to involve local councils who may already have overstretched resources.

The law will allow a tenant to take action in the courts for breach of contract and the remedies that the tenant can obtain include the following:

  1. An order requiring the landlord to act to reduce or remove the “hazard” and
  2. Damages to compensate the tenant for having to live in a property that is unfit for human habitation.

There are some notable exceptions for when the landlord will not usually be liable, and these include (but are not limited to):

  1. When the problem is caused by the actions of the tenant and
  2. Acts of god

This is a new law designed to protect tenants and the court will ultimately decide in each case whether a property is ‘fit for human habitation’. The following are factors that the courts will look at in each case:

  1. Condition of the property eg, neglect
  2. If the building is unstable or structurally unsafe
  3. Damp problems
  4. Unsafe layout
  5. Not enough natural light
  6. Not enough ventilation
  7. Problems with hot and cold running water
  8. Drainage problems.

The above is not an exhaustive list and gives you an idea of what the courts will assess in each case.

How solicitors can help

If you are a landlord and have received a letter referring to the new law, solicitors can assist you by providing you with advice on how to respond as well as letting you know your legal obligations. They can also assist if you are currently in court proceedings and need advice on how to proceed.

Article provided by Christian Browne, Managing Director at Summerfield Browne Solicitors

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances, and is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.

Published on 5th June 2019

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