The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act has been in the news a fair amount recently, and if you’re a landlord, you might be wondering exactly what it is and what it means for you. We’re here to shed some light on this piece of legislation and clarify exactly what you need to do now that it has come into force.
What is the Act?
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act is not brand new. In fact, it was introduced in 2018 as an amendment to an existing act – the Landlord and Tenant Act – that has been around since 1985. The reason that it has been popping up in the news more recently is that the Act officially came into force on March 20th, 2019.
At a basic level, the Act does what it says on the tin: it requires that landlords ensure their rental properties are fit for human habitation. Crucially, it specifies that the properties must be fit for human habitation from the beginning of the tenancy, and throughout the tenancy. It is up to the landlord to ensure that a certain standard of fitness is maintained throughout.
What is ‘fit for human habitation’?
Fitness for human habitation is determined by a number of factors, and a property can be deemed unfit by a court if it has any of the following issues:
- unstable, unsafe or neglected building
- severe damp
- lack of natural light
- lack of ventilation
- poor supply of hot and cold water
- problems with drainage
- problems with facilities for preparing food and washing up
There are more hazards which should be avoided, and you can see the full list on the government’s website.
In most cases, it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix these problems promptly and effectively. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, the landlord is not held responsible if the problem was caused by the tenant’s behaviour or possessions, if the landlord hasn’t gained consent (e.g. planning permission) to carry out necessary work, or in the event of ‘acts of God’ (e.g. fires, floods) that are out of the landlord’s control.
What do I have to do?
In practice, this Act doesn’t require landlords to do anything new – rental properties have been required to be fit for human habitation for a long time. To quote government guidance, this amendment is designed to “strengthen tenants’ means of redress against the minority of landlords who do not fulfil their legal obligations to keep their properties safe.” That means, if you’re already fulfilling your obligations as a landlord and maintaining your rental properties to a good standard, you don’t need to do anything except what you’re already doing.
However, if you aren’t meeting your obligations as a landlord, this Act does allow for legal repercussions. Your tenants can take you to court, and if you are found to be liable then you can be ordered to carry out work on the property and/or pay compensation to the tenant. Of course, for the typical landlord who takes reasonable care of their rental property, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act isn’t anything to be worried about.
To find out more details about this Act, check out the government’s website.
Are you a landlord with a property to let in Bristol? Contact Gough Quarters today and find out how we can help you.
Cover photo by Nolan Issac on Unsplash