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New protections for tenants in poor housing

View profile for Radhika Shah
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From 20 March 2020 a new law came into effect which gave tenants the power to enforce their right to live in a home fit for human habitation.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (the Act) came into force last year on 20 March 2019. It meant that most new tenancy agreements (with some exceptions) entered into after 20 March 2019 had the new rights included. After 20 March 2020 it now applies to all periodic tenancies of less than 7 years even if they started before 20 March 2019.

The Act does not actually place any new obligations on landlords but instead ensures they are meeting their existing responsibilities to make sure their rented properties are ‘fit for human habitation’. This means that a rented home must be safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm.

The current law on disrepair requiring landlords to fix certain parts of a property that deteriorate from their original condition (e.g. structure and exterior and services for gas, electricity, water and sanitary services), will still apply.

Under the new Act the landlord will also have to put and keep the property, including common parts, in a fit state for human habitation. This means as well as carrying out repairs, they will also be obliged to carry out improvement works. The landlord must have regard to;

  • The condition of the building 
  • The stability of the building
  • Whether there is a problem with damp
  • If the internal layout is safe
  • Whether there is enough natural light
  • Whether there is enough ventilation
  • Any problems with the hot and cold water supply
  • Any problems with drainage
  • The facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water

In addition, in England, under the new Act a defect will also include issues that are ‘prescribed hazards’ under the existing HHSRS Regulations and these are;

  • Facilities for the disposal of wastewater       
  • Asbestos and manufactured mineral fibres    
  • Biocides         
  • Carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products
  • Lead   
  • Radiation       
  • Uncombusted fuel gas
  • Volatile organic compounds  
  • Electrical hazards      
  • Excess cold    
  • Excess heat    
  • Crowding and space   
  • Entry by intruders      
  • Lighting (including natural)   
  • Noise  
  • Domestic hygiene, pests and refuse
  • Food safety
  • Personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
  • Water supply for domestic purposes
  • Falls associated with baths etc.
  • Falls on the level
  • Falls associated with stairs and steps
  • Falls between levels
  • Fire
  • Hot surfaces and materials
  • Collision and entrapment
  • Explosions
  • Position and operability of amenities
  • Structural collapse and falling elements

We anticipate that the most common kinds of repair work under the new law will relate to condensation, damp and mould growth.

A tenant can bring a claim against their landlord or bring a counterclaim to possession proceedings, if the landlord is not meeting their obligations in relation to the condition of the property. The court can make the landlord pay the tenant compensation and/or order that the landlord do the necessary works to the property.

If you are having difficulties with the condition of your rented property, or you are facing a claim from a tenant about the condition of your property, or you want to know about your rights - you should obtain specialist legal advice as soon as possible.

TV Edwards has a team of solicitors with expertise in housing cases. If you are seeking legal advice relating to housing issues, then please contact us on 0203 440 8100 or by email to a_housingreferrals@tvedwards.com to see if we can assist.