Fitness for Human Habitation

Fitness for human habitation

Fitness for human habitation is clearly the absolute minimum standard that a residential tenant can expect and accordingly on 20 March 2020 the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into full force.

The Fitness for Human Habitation Act gives new rights to tenants and therefore additional compliance obligations for those landlords operating in the residential sector.

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Whether a failure to provide adequate accommodation is as a result of a lack of knowledge of the private landlord or a failure of their managing agent, the result is clear; if you fail to provide adequate accommodation and maintain it, then you will suffer some financial consequences.

Under the new legislation the tenant can bring a claim directly against the landlord. The tenant still retains their right to appeal to the Environmental Health department of the their local authority but this is now no longer required to bring a claim.

It is no defence that the tenant was aware of the defect with the premises at the commencement of their tenancy, creating an arguably new obligation for the landlord to provide appropriate accommodation even if their aim was to offer accommodation to those with the least choice in the marketplace.

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Landlords should also be aware that tenants are protected from eviction as soon as they present a claim under this legislation. The property must clearly therefore be fit for habitation upon the commencement of the tenancy and maintained for the duration of the tenancy.

This legislative change will doubtless lead to the increase in the number of “no win no fee” type claim firms offering to assist tenants with housing disrepair claims. Such claims will be submitted via the County Courts and will therefore be fairly low cost (though the penalties for the landlords may not be low cost!). There is no longer a significant obstacle for a tenant to overcome to take action against their landlord.

So what are the takeaway lessons?

In our view, Landlords should seriously consider appointing an Agent to manage their properties unless they are absolutely confident that their legislative knowledge and abilities are sufficient to allow them to navigate the raft of legislation which now impacts landlords.

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From a Letting Agent point of view we urge Owners to review the skillset, qualification and experience of those who are undertaking routine property inspections. Some further training will undoubtedly be required for some as this is a more important role than ever.

Further, we feel that Landlords and Letting Agents could learn something from the larger landlord groups and housing associations. In such an environment it is typical to engage a residential surveyor to undertake asset inspections every 3 – 5 years as an addition to their in house inspection regime. This is likely to be self financing in reducing or avoiding the claims made against the landlord by the tenant.

How can we help?

The team at Graham Kinnear Property Consultant provide bespoke Residential Property Inspections and will make comment and suggestions with regards to all of the noted Hazards as identified within the Housing Health and Safety Rating System legislation. These include damp and mould growth, excess cold, excess heat, asbestos, biocides, carbon monoxide, lead, radiation, uncombusted fuel gas, crowding and space, entry by intruders, lighting, noise, domestic hygiene, food safety, water supply, falls on stairs and level surfaces, electrical hazard, fire, explosion, position of amenities, structural collapse.

Our report may also assist landlords with licensing requirements under the 2004 Housing Act, building insurance covenants and landlord accreditation.

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It is key to remember that property will degrade as a result of time and by the action of occupiers within it. Burying your head in the sand and hoping for the best is now the least prudent option to select.

Get in touch with us by email or call on 01843 583000 and let us give you a highly competitive quote to provide a regular inspection service for your portfolio. 

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