Landlords – are your properties fit for human habitation?

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 comes into force on March 20 this year.

It makes changes to the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 to require that all Landlords ensure that residential properties are put and kept in a condition fit for human habitation both before they are let and during a tenancy. 

Elizabeth Shaw, director at Wake Smith, looks at how this will apply to social and private sector tenancies in England.

“It will only apply to tenancies made after 20th March 2019 so any tenancy entered into before that date will not be covered by the Act even if actual occupation begins after March 20 this year.

“However, any tenancy that is renewed or comes into existence as a periodic tenancy from a fixed term after March 20 will be covered by the Act.

“Contractual periodic tenancies that arise from a fixed term contract (so are not a statutory periodic tenancy) are probably not covered as they will have come into existence on the expiry of a fixed term by way of continuation of the fixed term.

“Under the Act, the standard of fitness is to be assessed by the Court using 29 hazard profiles.  The Act is based on the person actually occupying the property as opposed to the current position which is based on notional occupiers from high risk groups.

“There are few exemptions. One is tenancies that are for more than seven years. However, a tenancy for seven years with a break clause at two years will be treated as a two year tenancy unless the break clause is tenant only.

“It is likely that case law that already applies to Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 will continue to apply under the new Act and so a Landlord will not be liable for fitness unless they have been put on notice of the lack of fitness.

“However, that cannot be guaranteed. Landlords should make sure they are inspecting regularly and taking reasonable steps to be aware of fitness issues.

“Where there standard is breached, the Tenant will be able to seek damages and will be able to demand that the property is made fit.”

For advice please contact Elizabeth Shaw at elizabeth.shaw@wake-smith.com or on 0114 224 2041

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