How ‘fit’ is your property?
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 is due to come into force on 20 March 2019. Have you considered yet how it can impact your business?
The new Act requires landlords to ensure that any property they let is fit for human habitation when a tenancy begins, and remain so for the length of the tenancy.
A property will be deemed unfit for habitation if there are serious defects in any of the following:
- Freedom from damp
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary conveniences
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
The Act covers all tenancies less than seven years in length in both the social and private rented sectors. It encompasses all parts of the building, including any stairwells and hallways in which the landlord has an interest. For example, the common parts of a house in multiple occupation or block of flats owned by a landlord.
Landlords are responsible for fitness for habitation unless the damage or disrepair is caused by the tenants’ behaviour.
If a property is unfit for human habitation, the landlord will be required to fix the issue. But there are some exemptions.
The landlord is not obliged to:
- Rebuild or reinstate a destroyed building
- Put right unfitness caused by the tenant
- Carry out works that are the responsibility of a superior landlord, or for which they cannot obtain third-party consent
Most landlords have nothing to worry about in respect of the new Act. A reasonably maintained property should not be deemed unfit. Only landlords of properties suffering serious disrepair issues are likely to be affected, and these should be resolved irrespective of new legislation.
However, private landlords responsible for regulated tenancies where repair and modernisation may have been limited by a sitting tenant need be aware of the Act’s provisions.
As with any new regulations, time will tell exactly how it is interpreted by the courts and whether there are unintended consequences.
Need advice? The NLA’s Telephone Advice Line is staffed by our team of experienced landlords who have a wealth of knowledge. The advice line (020 7840 8939) is free for members - see options for joining here.
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