Fitness for human habitation – What landlords need to know

Industry Insight April 5th, 2019
Fitness for human habitation – What landlords need to know

The fitness for human habitation act came into force on 20th of March 2019, which is an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985, and now makes explicitly clear that the property must remain in a state fit for habitation from the beginning to the end of tenancies, rather than just at the beginning.

This act is designed to help protect tenants against negligent landlords, and gives tenants the power to sue their landlords if they are not in compliance with the regulations.  The new regulation allows tenants to bypass the council and take direct action against landlords in the courts.


What it means in practice

The good news is that this is something that all upstanding landlords adhere to anyway, and there is no need for landlords to get any new licenses to prove that they are doing this.  The main practical consideration for landlords that comply with these basic standards, that they ensure they make regular visits to their properties to ensure their continued fitness for habitation, something that is likely to be a default for most landlords.  It’s important for landlords to take the initiative and do this because there is no clear guidance on whether the landlord needs to be notified of a problem by the tenant to act.

For HMO landlords, the obligations are not just for the property that is being rented, but for the whole of the building that forms part of the abode, which is under control of the landlord.

This Act applies immediately to any new tenancies, and Landlords with existing tenancies have 12 months to comply with the new regulations.  So landlords with existing discrepancies will still have time to fix existing problems such as excessive dampness after the 20th of March 2019.

Section 10 of the Landlord Tenancy Act 1985 defines fitness for human habitation, and set out the following criteria that will define whether an abode is fit for habitation:

Repair

Stability

Freedom from damp

Internal arrangement

Natural Lighting

Ventilation

Water Supply (including both hot and cold)

Drainage and sanitary conveniences

Facilities for preparation of cooking food and disposing waste water

Who it applies to

According to the Act, the law applies to landlords with dwellings in England to the following:

Tenancies shorter than 7 years

New secure, assured and introductory tenancies

A fixed term tenancy that has been renewed

Exceptions

The landlord will not be at fault for a lack of fitness of habitation in the following circumstances:

The cause of the problem is down to the tenant’s behaviour or possessions.

Act of God – Fires, storms, floods, other natural events outside the landlord’s control

The landlord hasn’t been able to get permission from the freeholder

The tenant is not an individual i.e. local authorities, national parks, housing associations, education institutes.

Why not give Arthur a try?

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