Family unpacking boxes

Assuming you’re a responsible, professional landlord, you probably didn’t have to do anything when the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 took effect on 20th March last year.

Likewise, because at Your Move we inspect all our landlords’ properties to make sure they’re safe and in good condition, the new law had very little impact on us. That’s because there are no new obligations for landlords and agents – it’s just a slight amendment to the regulations to make it clear that rented properties must be fit for human habitation at the start of a tenancy and remain that way throughout the tenancy.

Last March, the law only came into force for new and renewed tenancies, but from 20th March 2020, it applies to existing tenancies as well – i.e. all tenancies are now covered.

The benefits of the new law:

  • For landlords: provisions within the Act make it easier to gain access to properties that need repair
  • For tenants: it will be easier to take landlords to court if a property is not in a fit state

What does the Homes Act require you to do?

Every rented property must meet the criteria for ‘fitness for habitation’. That includes making sure:

  • There is no problem with damp
  • There is enough natural light
  • The property is well ventilated
  • There is a good working supply of hot and cold water
  • It is easy for tenants to prepare and cook food or wash up

ARLA Propertymark suggests using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) as a basis for checking the property. The GOV.UK website has a document that provides full information, with a guide scoring form listing the 29 hazards on page 43 (end of Annex B).

The consequences if you break the law

If a rented home is inspected by the council and found to be hazardous, you must fix the issues. If you don’t, tenants have the right to take you to court for breach of contract.

In terms of how much you could be fined, there’s currently no limit on the level of compensation that can be awarded to the tenant. It’s entirely at the judge’s discretion and will take into account:

  • The harm inflicted on the tenant
  • How long the issue has been going on
  • How severe the issue is perceived to be

There are some circumstances under which the landlord or letting agent won’t be held responsible, including when:

  • Tenant behaviour or the tenants’ own possessions have caused the problem
  • The problem has been caused by something completely beyond the landlord’s control, e.g. storms or floods
  • The tenant is not an individual, e.g. local authorities or educational institutions

You can access a full summary on the GOV.UK website.

If you self-manage, currently have a tenant who moved into your property before 20th March last year and you haven’t inspected the property during that time, you must do so now to identify any issues. If you need any help or advice, simply contact your local Your Move branch.

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