A new law came into force on March 20th, which gives tenants in England greater powers to hold landlords to account over homes which are difficult or dangerous to live in. The new law is called the ‘Fitness for Human Habitation Act’ and requires landlords to ensure that they are meeting their existing responsibilities with regards to property standards and safety.
HMRC have stated that most landlords make sure that the houses and flats they rent out are safe and secure, warm and dry. “But some landlords do not, and this means that some tenants live in dangerous or unhealthy conditions”.
The new law will help these tenants and make sure irresponsible landlords improve their properties or leave the business.
Who does this law apply to?
The Act will apply to:
· Tenancies shorter than 7 years that are granted on or after 20 March 2019 (tenancies longer than 7 years that can be terminated by the landlord before the expiry of 7 years shall be treated as if the tenancy was for less than 7 years)
· New secure, assured and introductory tenancies (on or after 20 March 2019)
· Tenancies renewed for a fixed term (on or after 20 March 2019)
· From the 20 March 2020 the Act will apply to all periodic tenancies. This is all tenancies that started before 20 March 2019; in this instance landlords will have 12 months from the commencement date of the Act before the requirement comes into force
Prior to these changes, limited responsibilities for landlords to keep their properties in good repair during tenancies resulted in an estimated 1 million rented homes that could pose a serious risk to the health and safety of tenants.
What comes under the new law?
The law means that landlords leasing out properties for less than seven years must ensure the property is fit for people to live in at the start of the lease – and it must stay that way throughout the tenancy. Other issues are covered in the new legislation such as; homes must be ‘stable, free from serious damp and mould and have adequate natural light and ventilation’.
If any of the below problems are found to be at a degree where it makes the property not suitable for occupation, they can now cause a property to be deemed as unfit under the new law.
· Damp and mould growth
· Excess Cold
· Excess heat
· Asbestos and MMF
· Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
· Uncombusted fuel gas
· Volatile organic compounds
· Crowding and space
· Entry by intruders
· 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
· Flames, hot surfaces etc
· Collision and entrapment
· Position and operability of amenities etc
· Structural collapse and falling elements
If homes fall below these standards, tenants can insist on repairs and claim damages for costs such as health problems or inconvenience caused by living in the property, damage to their furniture or the cost of temporary accommodation.
Tenants can now take direct action in court when a landlord fails in their legal duties, rather than having to rely on the local housing authority to prosecute.
For more information, take a look at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s guide for landlords here.
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