On the 20th March 2019, a new law came into force to make sure that rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’. Essentially, this should mean that they are safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm. This new law will help tenants and make sure irresponsible landlords improve their properties or face prosecution – landlords could be served with a penalty notice to improve and/ compensation to the tenant if found to be in breach.
The Act references a number of other acts (primarily the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Housing Act 2004) in relation to what could constitute the term “unfit for human habitation”. This does not make it ideal for light reading but has meant that the breadth of definitions has been increased so as to cover a wider variety of matters. There is however a further criteria which also needs to be met which states that the property is only unfit for human habitation if “it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition”. Ultimately, it will be down to a Court to decide and no doubt case-law will shape these distinctions with time. An example of the matters which would be considered as defects are listed below, although it is important to note that any prescribed hazard” – which means any matter or circumstance amounting to a hazard acts as an effective catch-all and means the list below is not exhaustive.
Matters which would be considered as defects
|Damp and mould growth||Food safety (inadequate provisions)|
|Excess Cold||Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage|
|Excess heat||Water supply|
|Asbestos and MMF||Falls (baths, between levels, level surfaces and stairs)|
|Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products||Fire|
|Lead||Flames, hot surfaces etc|
|Radiation||Collision and entrapment|
|Uncombusted fuel gas||Explosions|
|Volatile organic compounds||Position and operability of amenities etc|
|Crowding and space||Structural collapse and falling elements|
|Entry by intruders||Lighting|
|Noise||Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse|
Tenants can rely on the Homes Act immediately if they signed the tenancy agreement on or after 20th March 2019. For those that signed before 20th March 2019, the Act will only be enforceable from 20th March 2020. After 20 March 2020, everyone who has a secure or assured tenancy, a statutory tenancy, or a private periodic tenancy, can use the Homes Act regardless of when their tenancy began. Anyone who is still on the fixed term of a private tenancy that began before 20 March 2019 cannot use the Act until the end of that fixed term.
Furthermore, the Homes Act only applies to tenants in England and does not cover people who have ‘licences to occupy’, instead of tenancy agreements i.e. lodgers.
Exceptions the landlord is not responsible for:-
– Problems caused by tenant behaviour
– Events like fire, storm, floods (sometimes called ‘acts of god’)
– The landlord will not repair your possessions or furniture belonging to previous tenants
– If the landlord hasn’t been able to get permission or access from certain other people.
In order to assist the landlord in fulfilling their obligations to ensure the property meets this new criteria, there is also an implied covenant that the landlord may enter the dwelling for the purpose of viewing its condition and state of repair although this is only permitted –
- at reasonable times of the day, and
- if at least 24 hours’ notice in writing has been given to the occupier of the dwelling.