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Residential Landlords: Be aware of new legislation that could affect your property



A quick reminder to all landlords; the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 comes into force from next week, 20 March 2019, and requires any property let by a landlord to be fit for human habitation.

This law will apply to all new tenancies commencing on or after 20 March 2019, including any renewals and any existing fixed term tenancies which become periodic after that date i.e. the tenancy is ongoing but has exceeded the initial fixed period of usually six months. For all existing periodic tenancies and those tenancies that started before 20 March 2019, there’s an additional 12 months before the requirements come into effect.

The Act amends the existing Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, requiring all landlords to make sure their property (together with any common parts or any buildings it forms part of) is free of any hazards which are so serious that the dwelling is not reasonably suitable for occupation. What is a hazard? Courts will consider the condition of repair, stability, damp, internal arrangement, natural lighting, ventilation, water supply, drainage, sanitary conveniences and facilities for the preparation of cooking food.

If it is found that a landlord failed to comply and didn’t provide their tenant with a home fit for human habitation, tenants will have the right to take County Court action for breach of contract. A court will have the power to order the landlord, at their own cost, to carry out the necessary work required to improve the property and, in addition, make the landlord pay the tenant compensation, the level awarded taking account of the perceived harm caused by the hazard. Currently there are no specified limits of the level of compensation that can be awarded.

The Act is designed to supplement the range of powers already available to local authorities. Local authorities however, already over-stretched and under resourced, are never going to be able to deal with anything but the most extreme of cases and so, the hope is by empowering tenants to take action against their landlords directly, the Act will have a much greater impact in tackling those landlords who are renting out properties in serious disrepair. 

In terms of the wider social impact; it is hoped that by strengthening tenants’ means of redress against their landlord, the Act will even out the quality of property available in the private rental sector, discouraging those landlords who currently provide substandard properties. On the other hand, however, with simpler means by which to take action and the possibility of unlimited compensation, might we see a spate of frivolous claims by tenants simply looking to make money from their landlords?

We’ll have to wait and see how the Courts interpret the Act and how far they go in determining what is unreasonable but, in the meantime, the message for all landlords; make sure your tenanted properties are reasonably maintained and free of serious disrepair. Fail to do so and you could find yourself in court very soon.

If you have any concerns about how your property might be affected or if your tenants make a complaint to you which might result in you having to defend an action, please get in touch so we can advise you on the best course of action.


Article Date: 13/03/2019

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