The Homes Fitness of Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards Bill (Fitness for human habitation) is now going through the Commons.
Firstly, how will this affect landlords and tenants in the future? Its report stage is due on the 26th of October this year. It then goes back to the House of Commons for a third reading before it goes through the House of Lords. It is then considered for amendment at the end with royal consent. However, it has crossed party support and could well become law.
How will it affect you?
The bill would give private and social tenants the ability to take landlords to court if their homes are unsafe. It means tenants would have rights to repairs for property issues. Things such as mould, excess cold, fire risk etc. It compels landlords to carry out works to their properties. The courts are able to give the Injunction to promote landlords to do work or give large damages. Where landlords fail to carry out works the tenants have rights to take legal action. This is on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation.
Most Societies and the National Landlord Association have given their backing to the bill. Keep an eye on our newsletter as we will keep you updated on when this Bill becomes law. It has wide-ranging consequences for landlords and tenants as well as wide support.
We can confirm that the private members Bill has now passed and is now law. The Bill gives greater responsibility to residential landlords. It implies in a residential tenancy that the property must be fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout. The Landlord & Tenant Act of 1885 was the original legislation. The latest bill is an update to that. It means that tenants have the right to take legal action if landlords fail to keep properties in a state that is fit for human habitation. The definition of fit for human habitation is as follows. “So far defective in one or more matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in the condition”
What does this mean for landlords?
The bill focusses on landlords making repairs and keeping the property liveable. The items it addresses are below:
Stability – this could be due to the property having subsidence etc.
Freedom from damp – although a grey area freedom from damp means that landlords now need to ensure that the property is free from all forms of damp
Internal arrangement – ensuring that the interior of the property is fit for human habitation
Natural lighting – this is to ensure that there is as much natural lighting within the property as is possible.
Facilities for the preparation and cooking of food – it is essential now that landlords provide cooking facilities. Landlords must repair these within a set period of time. Landlords can involve the local authority if repairs are not done quick enough.
Water supply – landlords need to ensure that they have a consistent water supply.
Drainage and sanitary convenience – these need to be free from any form of problems and that they actually work.
Ventilation – the landlord needs to ensure that the property is and has a free flow of air.
Facilities for the disposal of wastewater – the landlord has the responsibility to make sure that there is a working outlet for waste water.
The above is going to be very important with landlords that deal with HMO Properties.
Why is this needed?
There have been long-standing concerns about property standards for a considerable length of time. In 2016/2017 the English Housing Survey found that 38% of private renters lived in poor or substandard housing. The current Statute of obligations regarding the upkeep of properties has become outdated. They have ceased to become effective as a result of annual rent limits. The bill now applies to all residential property thereby bringing to an end the outdated anomalies. It also gives tenants a civil remedy meaning they can appeal against their living conditions.
Are there any exceptions?
There are some exceptions from the implied covenant to keep properties in a suitable state. Landlords will not be liable for the unfitness of a property in the following circumstances:-
Tenants failure to use the property in a tenant like manner
The legal remedies are for the tenants to report the matter to the local authority. The local authority will then have the right to impose fines and potentially stop the landlord for re-renting the property. The tenant will also have the right to damages in the Courts. It is therefore important that landlords not only maintain their properties but keep them updated on a regular basis.