The new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 , 20 March 2019. The Act is that it gives tenants the right to sue their landlords if their property is in such poor condition, that it is ‘not fit for human habitation’.
In the past, tenants have only had the right to sue if the property was in ‘disrepair’ (under s.11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985). However, if the property was not in ‘disrepair’ (ie if nothing was actually broken or damaged) but just in a very poor condition, then tenants had no right to do anything.
They were dependent on Local Authorities to take action, maybe after the Council had carried out a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) inspection to assess whether any of the 29 possible “hazards” (including many things, from Damp and Cold, to poor Security, Asbestos and Trip hazards) were present at the property.
In determining whether a house is ‘unfit’, the Bill includes issues that were not covered by a landlord’s legal repair responsibilities, such as damp caused by design defects (lack of ventilation) rather than disrepair, and infestation (rodents, insects, bed bugs) and further adds to legal requirements already pre existing within the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) which was introduced by the Housing Act 2004 (inforce since 2006).
Landlords of both social and privately rented properties must make sure that their properties meet certain standards at the beginning and throughout a tenancy.
If they fail to do this, tenants have the right to take legal action which includes fixed financial penalties of up to £30,000 and banning orders – possibly for life – for the most serious offenders so there is a real need to ensure each and every rental property (social or private) is safe.
This means that the 29 hazards will need to be assessed; a risk category assigned (where applicable) and then any remedial action to address those risks are implemented to ensure the safety of the tenant and their visitors.