On the 20th December 2018, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation Act) 2018 (the Act) received royal assent and comes into effect on the 20th March 2019. The Act extends the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, through the insertion of additional requirements in relation to the ‘fitness for human habitation’ of properties let as dwellings. This will affect landlords, both private and social, who will need to ensure that their properties meet the appropriate standard so as to prevent claims by their tenants of breach, and is intended to extend obligations to almost all landlords and to modernise the fitness for habitation test. If a dwelling isn’t up to the standard of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), tenants will have the right to take legal action in the courts for breach of contract.
The Act implies a covenant into leases to which the Act applies that dwellings will be fit for human habitation at the time the lease is granted, and will remain fit for human habitation during the term of the lease. For this purpose fit for human habitation retains the meaning contained in the 1985 Act and regard will be had to repair, stability, freedom from damp, internal arrangements, natural lighting, ventilation, water supply, drainage and sanitary conveniences, and facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water. A dwelling shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.
If the dwelling is unfit for human habitation then landlords will be required to undertake works of repair (and can be compelled by the court to do so). However, there is no requirement for a landlord to undertake repairs for which the tenant would be liable by virtue of their use the dwelling in a tenant-like manner. Furthermore no obligation arises:
1. To rebuild or re-instate where the dwelling is damaged by fire, storm, flood or other inevitable accident;
2. To keep in repair or maintain anything which the tenant is entitled to remove;
3. To carry out works or repair which would place the landlord in breach of any legal obligation; or
4. To carry out works or repairs where consent of a superior landlord or third party is required and consent has not been given.
Landlords are permitted however, to enter upon the dwelling for the purpose of viewing the condition and state of repair, provided that such inspection takes place at a reasonable time of day, and on at least 24 hours written notice.
The provisions of the Act will apply to any lease of a dwelling let wholly or mainly for human habitation provided that the lease is for a term of less than seven years, or a secure, assured or introductory tenancy with a fixed term of seven years or more. This means that properties both in the social and private rented sector will be included, together with any and all parts of a building within which the dwelling is situated (which incorporates common parts of a HMA or block of flats).
No exclusion of these provisions is permitted within the agreement for lease, and any lease that purports to do so will find that the provision is held void. Furthermore, landlords will not be permitted to include provisions allowing it terminate the lease in the event that the tenant seeks to enforce its rights under the Act.
Accordingly tenants are now afforded greater power to enforce the obligations contained in the 1985 Act, and landlords may face claims that would not be caught, historically, by claims for disrepair.
Contact Richard Burraston on Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any issues relating to landlord and tenant disputes.