Tue 29 Jan 2019
Due to enter into law on 20th March 2019, the new Fitness for Human Habitation Act amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Building Act 1984.
Under the new law, tenants will now have the right to take legal action in the courts for breach of contract. As ARLA members, at Sowerbys we welcome any measure that improves standards within the rental sector and allows good landlords to stand out from the crowd.
It is estimated that between two and a half to three million people live in properties that don’t adhere to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, meaning conditions present a significant risk to the health and safety. However, landlords and agents will not be liable where ‘unfitness’ has been caused by the action of tenants or when tenants have purposely restricted the repair.
Such a clause already exists under Section 8 of the Landlord and Tenant Act which requires landlords to provide and maintain homes fit for habitation. Yet, due to small technicality within the legal text this was often not applicable or enforceable.
What does the act cover?The new act now applies to all areas of a building “in which the landlord has an interest”, including communal areas. Additionally, the categories that determine whether a house is fit for human habitation have been updated, with the Bill now reflecting the list of 29 hazards listed on the 2004 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This was created to enable local authorities to enforce living standards across the private rented sector.
This enforcement under the previous arrangement and legal context was only instigated if local councils were made aware and then acted upon the information provided. As such the new act allows tenants to bypass this and proceed with private legal action in the first instance.
What next?We advise all private and non managed landlords to read the guide explaining all about the HHSRS which underpins the new legal framework, here. We would also recommend inspecting the property and creating a mid-term report with photos to document the condition of the property.
With the rate of legislation changes already seen and the momentum behind industry reform gathering pace, there has never been a better time to leave the management of rental properties to professional ARLA registered letting agents.
If you would like Sowerbys to arrange an independent property assessment on your behalf, please email us and we will arrange for a local member of the team to make contact to discuss your options.
"I can't thank you all enough for the excellent way everyone at Sowerbys handled my sale. From the initial meeting with Max, the superb brochure with his pictures, to my contact with all in the office, Joanna, Toby and Flora, it was always a pleasure to see and talk to them. A special thanks for Joanna who was regularly in contact with me, updating me on feedback and booking viewers. It says much for the firm that viewers arrived on time and were genuinely interested in the property. I will certainly be recommending them to friends and returning the next time I move home. With grateful thanks Sonia Lindqvist "