A new landlord regulation will come into force on Wednesday 20th March 2019. MP Karen Buck in 2018 initially introduced The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 to parliament. This legislation passed through the relevant approval stages very quickly, so much so, that many landlords have no idea about it.
This article has been written to bring you up to speed on this new landlord regulation. It will also help you to determine whether you need to do anything once the legislation comes into play.
What is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 all about?
For many years, landlords in England have had to adhere to certain requirements. This includes ensuring all rental properties are fit for human habitation. This landlord regulation forms an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which has subsequently been introduced to further protect tenants.
This Act will now give tenants the opportunity to take their landlord to court if specific requirements are not met. Landlords can also be sued for damages covering the entire length of the contract. This can end up being a lot of money.
So, what does ‘fit for human habitation’ actually mean?
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is often referred to as the standard framework. Local authorities use this framework to determine the feasibility of a property fit for human habitation. This can result in imposing sanctions on the landlord and instructing court proceedings.
Note: A tenant’s circumstances will also be taken into account as part of the assessment process. This means that the results of each assessment could differ dependant on who is living in the property at the time.
What is assessed as part of the landlord regulation?
A number of issues will be considered when assessing a property for human habitation. These include (but are not limited to):
- Structure / Stability
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary conveniences
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
- Other hazards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System
What are the penalties?
In many cases, minor defects are found as part of the assessment process. If this happens, the landlord will be served notice to make improvements on the property. Local authorities could also decide to shut down your rental property or sue the landlord for damages if the property is dangerous. This can be very costly.
If there are reasonable grounds found in suing the landlord, then penalties could potentially cover the whole length of the tenancy. This can be up to thousands of pounds!
Does the tenant need to notify the landlord of defects as part of this landlord regulation?
The legislation does not specifically state that you need to notify the landlord of defects. However, the expectation is that it will operate in the same manner as a landlord’s obligation, under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. As such, the requirement to notify the landlord will depend on the type of tenancy you have. E.g single / joint tenancy or room only tenancy. They will all differ.
Single / Joint Tenancies
Tenants should notify their landlord of any defects found in their rental property. Landlords should then be given a reasonable time to resolve these issues although this is not explicitly stated in the legislation. Interpretation of this however is based on the existing repairs case law.
It is so important that your rental property remains fit for human habitation at all times. Responsible landlords should consider increasing the frequency of their rental property inspections. Try and get into a set routine of doing your inspections. This will save you time and money in the long run. We often spot defects on our property inspections that the tenant either hasn’t picked up on or simply just didn’t want to report. This happens regularly. A lot more than you probably think.
Note: The tenant is not required to notify the landlord if a defect is found on the exterior of a property. But the landlord’s obligation to maintain their rental property to a ‘fit standard’ will be triggered automatically.
Room only tenancies
Unlike single / joint tenancies, the landlord does not need to be notified of defects arising in the communal areas. But it does emphasise the importance of regular HMO property checks. Many professional landlords will already be visiting the communal areas at least once monthly to carry out fire tests. So why not complete a visual habitation check during the visit too? Always do everything you can to remain 100% compliant. Don’t take any risks. They really aren’t worth it.
What happens if a defect occurs within a tenants room?
The landlord is only obligated to fix the defect once they have been sufficiently notified by the tenant. Or in some cases, discovered through other means in line with the normal operational procedures of the tenancy.
What is classed as a reasonable time to fix a defect?
A reasonable time to fix an issue will unfortunately vary based on the severity of the issue itself. Similarly to repairs under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act. For example; fixing a broken boiler in the middle of winter will be prioritised much faster than if it was in the middle of summer. The circumstances of each tenant should also be taken into account. Tenants classed as ‘vulnerable’ should take precedent over those that aren’t vulnerable.
Should a landlord be taken to court, a judge will decide whether or not they feel the repairs were carried our in a timely manner. This decision will be made on a case by case basis.
Are there any defects the landlord is not responsible for as part of this new landlord regulation?
The landlord is not responsible for the following:
- Defects caused by the tenants negligence or intentional damage
- Rebuilding the property in the event of destruction
- Damage by fire, flood or other catastrophic weather event (insurance policies may cover this)
- Repairing items that the tenant is entitled to remove from the property (ie their own personal possessions)
- Carrying out works that the freeholder or head landlord will not authorise (in the case of leasehold property). But the landlord must make reasonable endeavours to contact the freeholder / head landlord in these cases.
New and renewed tenancies from 20th March 2019
From Wednesday 20th March 2019 this legislation will apply to all new tenancies granted.
Tenancies renewed on or after 20th March 2019
The legislation will apply at the point of renewal or when the tenancy becomes periodic.
Tenants who signed before 20 March 2019 will have to wait until 20th March 2020 before being able to make use of the act. The only exception is if they sign a new tenancy or their current tenancy becomes periodic (monthly rolling).
As you know, this new landlord regulation comes into play on Wednesday 20th March 2019. It is so important that your rental property is safe and fit for human habitation. Do not take the risk. Get any issues within your rental property sorted.
Make sure you also fully understand the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. For further information or clarity about the act, click here.
There is currently over 170 individual pieces of landlord legislation to adhere to in 2019. It is a lot to get your head around, especially if you are a new or accidental landlord. For further information on all of the 2019 legislations you should be adhering to as a responsible landlord, click here.
Not sure you want the on-going responsibility?
Let us help. We can manage all your landlord regulations for you as part of our Award Winning full management service. We have the knowledge, systems and procedures in place to ensure that you don’t fall foul of the law. Simply call us today on 0115 981 9651 to find out how we can help.
We look forward to hearing from you.