Next week (Wednesday 20 March 2019), the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 comes into force.
The new Act requires that any property let by a landlord (private or social) is fit for human habitation when a tenancy is granted and remains so for its duration. It covers all tenancies less than seven years in length in both the private and social rented sectors and all existing tenancies. The landlord is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the property is “fit for human habitation” but is not responsible for damage or disrepair caused by tenants.
A property will be unfit for habitation if it suffers from any of the following defects:
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary conveniences
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food, and for the disposal of waste water.
If a property is unfit for habitation a landlord is required to carry out the necessary works to rectify the defects. Although a landlord is not obliged to rectify defects:
- Caused by a tenant;
- For which a superior landlord is responsible; or
- For which third party consent cannot be obtained.
If the landlord fails to carry out the necessary rectification works, ultimately Court proceedings can be issued to ensure the works are carried out and damages sought.
The majority of landlords will not need to be concerned by the new legislation. It is only those with serious defects that will be affected, however, these should be resolved irrespective of the new legislation. Only time will tell if there are any unintended consequences from the Act.