Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 – 20th March 2019 – FAQs

The Act revives a clause in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, requiring all rented homes to be ‘fit for human habitation’ at the start of the tenancy and throughout the duration of the tenancy. We have all been used to the LTA 1985 – Section 11 – as it’s the go to piece of legislation for Property Managers. The Act inserts a new section 9A into the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which is headed “Fitness for human habitation of dwellings in England”. 9A(1) provides:

… there is implied a covenant by the [landlord] that the dwelling—

(a) is fit for human habitation at the time the lease is granted or otherwise created or, if later, at the beginning of the term of the lease, and

(b) will remain fit for human habitation during the term of the lease.

So how is a property deemed Unfit for Human Habitation?

The Act incorporates 29 Hazards found in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) first introduced in 2006 (Housing Act 2004).

The updated ‘fitness standard’ includes issues not currently coveredby a landlord’s legal repair responsibilities, such as damp caused by, for example, lack of ventilation rather than disrepair, and infestation rats, mice, insects, bed bugs and so much more. 

What action can be taken?

The Act provides tenants with a means of taking effective action themselves if they rent a property in poor condition and the landlord fails to do the necessary maintenance. This applies to both private and social tenants. Currently tenants have no way to enforce property standards themselves. 

What rights do tenants have?

The Act gives tenants the right to take a landlord to courtwhere the property is not fit and to apply directly to the Court for an injunction to force a landlord to carry out works, or for damages (compensation) because the landlord has failed in his Duty of Care. Some tenants will be able to apply directly to the court using their own evidence. They can start court proceedings themselves and present the judge, with their OWN evidence such as photos of disrepair, without having to first rely on an environmental health officer (EHO)

What should Landlords be doing?

The landlord CANNOT contract out of these obligations. The obligations extend to the dwelling and if the dwelling is part of a building (block of flats or bedsit in an HMO), the provisions apply to all parts of the building in which the landlord has an estate or interest.

There is also an implied covenant that the landlord, or a person authorised in writing by the landlord, may enter the dwelling for the purpose of viewing its condition and state of repair which is permitted –

§  only at reasonable times of the day, and

§  only if at least 24 hours’ notice in writing has been given to the occupier of the dwelling.

The property is only regarded as unfit if (and only if) “it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition”.

The matters that could now cause a property to be unfit (only if it so defective that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation) will also include from 20 March 2019:

§  Damp and mould growth

§  Excess Cold

§  Excess heat

§  Asbestos and MMF

§  Biocides

§  Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products

§  Lead

§  Radiation

§  Uncombusted fuel gas

§  Volatile organic compounds

§  Crowding and space

§  Entry by intruders

§  Lighting

§  Noise

§  Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse

§  Food safety (inadequate provisions)

§  Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage

§  Water supply

§  Falls (baths, between levels, level surfaces and stairs)

§  Electrical hazards

§  Fire

§  Flames, hot surfaces etc

§  Collision and entrapment

§  Explosions

§  Position and operability of amenities etc

§  Structural collapse and falling elements

Pre Tenancy Protocol
Landlords or the person authorised to “deal” with the property must ensure that the property is Fit for Purpose pre-move in. Keeping accurate records, such as a detailed inventory and check-in report will be an important part of this process, as will regular property inspections throughout the duration of the tenancy.