There seems to have been another round of legislative changes that have all come at once and this one tackles some of the unfit rental properties that are a curse on our industry. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to state that landlords must ensure their property is fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy, and then maintain this standard for the whole time the tenant lives in the property.
The Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) already details the legal obligations of a landlord – that doesn’t change. What does change in the 2018 Act is the tenants right to take legal action if the landlord is not meeting those obligations. It’s an opportunity to hold rogue landlords accountable for not meeting HHSRS standards.
When I first mentioned the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill back in June of last year (you can read that here), I recounted an inconceivable figure of approximately 1 million rented properties being unfit for human habitation in the UK, resulting in around 3 million people (many of which are children) living in an environment that presents serious risk to their health and safety.
Issues such as damp, water supply, drainage, ventilation and lighting are all included in the list of issues that tenants will have to right to act upon once the legislation changes. There are in fact 29 hazards outlined by the HHSRS that have made it into the Bill. For a full rundown of them all, you can take a look at Home-Share’s guide to the check boxes you’ll need to tick as a landlord.
As you know I’m always HMO focussed, particularly as HMO license regulations are so stringent. So how will the Bill affect HMOs? For tenancies rented on a room only basis, the new Bill states that the landlord doesn’t need to be notified of defects arising in the communal areas. So that makes it even more critical that HMO landlords are checking their properties regularly – something HomeShare do as part of our management service. A defect in an individual tenant’s room is the landlord’s obligation to fix once the tenant has notified them of it.
Although the Bill largely provides more control to tenants, there are clear benefits for landlords too. For example, landlords won’t be held responsible for damages and repairs caused by the tenants’ own actions.
The new Fitness for Human Habitation Act is going to be law from 20th March 2019 and from that point on, landlords or agents acting for them will be legally bound to meet the HHSRS criteria. It will set the standards for rental accommodation and make them reinforceable for the first time.
“Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, regardless of whether you own your home or rent it,” said Minister for Housing Helen Wheeler, and I agree. Discussion about this topic since has been long and consistent, but in the wake of the Grenfell tower disaster, even the most despondent MPs couldn’t ignore or deny the relevance of the bill anymore. I welcome it’s introduction and think it’s a great step in ridding ourselves of rogue landlords and providing safe and healthy homes for the ever increasing number of rental tenants. Do you agree?