Tenants who live in homes with unresolved damp or mould issues will soon be able to take stronger action against their landlords. With less than a week until the government’s new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitations) Act 2018 comes into force for anyone who signs a new tenancy agreement in England (from 20th March), landlords will need to ensure their properties meet regulation standards or they may face being brought to court.
The housing charity Shelter claims around one million rented homes are not fit for human habitation, potentially affecting two and a half million people in the UK. The Act, an amendment to the existing Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, will see new powers granted to tenants to tackle landlords who ignore or refuse to resolve property concerns, by granting them the power to take their landlord to court over uninhabitable living conditions.
What does “fit for human habitation” mean?
Tenants and landlords will need to be aware, if they are not already, of what exactly fit for human habitation means. The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) says for a property to be fit for human habitation, requires it to be reasonably suitable for occupation in respect of:
- Freedom from damp
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary convenience
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of wastewater
- Or alternatively, if there is a problem with one of the 29 hazards listed in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulation 2005.
What does the Fitness for Human Habitation Act mean for Tenants?
Before, tenants were required to settle issues with their landlord or go through their local council to resolve any matters, but from 20th March 2019 onwards, tenants who have a new tenancy of fewer than seven years will be able to opt to take their landlord straight to court and not wait for their local council to act. It will be one for the courts to decide if the property is unfit for human habitation and if the landlord has been given sufficient time to rectify the issue(s).
The act will only be applied for new tenancies that start from 20th March 2019, with the act coming into force for all secured or assured tenancies regardless of when their tenancy began from 20th March 2020.
Tenants will still have to report any issues to their landlord or housing association but the new act will allow tenants to take action against landlords who are in breach of contract, with the court issuing an injunction forcing the landlord to make the necessary repairs and potentially award the tenant compensation.
What does the Fitness for Human Habitation Act mean for Landlords?
All landlords (social, private or agents acting on their behalf) will have to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation from the start of the tenancy and throughout its duration. The majority of landlords who currently fulfil their duties will be unaffected by the Acts’ amendments as the new Act doesn’t change any property standards or provide additional regulations but allows tenants the ability to enforce existing standards that landlords are expected to meet. Meaning if you are doing your role as a responsible landlord, you should not notice any change.
There will still remain work that the landlord will not be responsible for and these include defects to the property from:
- Negligence or intentional damage
- Rebuilding the property in the event of destruction or damage by fire, flood or other catastrophic weather events
- Repairing items that the tenants are entitled to remove from the property
How can Rentokil Property Care help to protect your home
Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, a homeowner or a renter, your home is still your home and preserving it is paramount. Rentokil Property Care specialises in providing effective, long term solutions for damp problems, timber decay, cavity wall tie failure, woodworm and structural waterproofing.
If you currently rent and are concerned that your property is suffering from problems with damp, rot or mould, your first port of call should be notifying your landlord or housing association as soon as possible. If you have any concerns, give our in-house team a call 0800 0121 437 and they will be able to offer advice on any of your property concerns. You could also look at the Top Tips on our website on common property problems, signs to look out for and how to protect your home.