Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
Amended the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 with the result that landlords are required to ensure properties are fit for human habitation when the tenancy is granted and remains so for the duration of the tenancy.
In force for new tenancies of 7 years or less created on or after 20 March 2019. Includes tenancy renewals and fixed-term tenancies that become periodic after 20 March 2019.
Will apply to pre-existing periodic tenancies on 20 March 2020 (e.g. secure council and assured housing association
A new implied term in a tenancy agreement
The requirement for fitness for human habitation is implied in all tenancies affected.
Landlords may not ‘contract out’ of this requirement.
The obligation extends to the building and any part where the landlord has an estate or interest (it includes the common parts).
“The government expects standards to improve as tenants will be empowered to take actionagainst their landlord where they fail to adequately maintain their property. This will level the playing field for the vast majority of good landlords who are already maintaining homes fit for human habitation without serious hazards, by ensuring that they are not undercut by landlordswho knowingly and persistently flout their responsibilities.”
The definition of fitness for human habitation
The property is “so far defective in one or more of those matters (see below) that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.”
- Freedom from damp
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary conveniences
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
- Any prescribed hazard: Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005
What are the “Prescribed hazards” under the HHSRS?
Any prescribed hazard means that the 29 Housing, Health and Safety Rating hazards are automatically factors that will be taking into account when judging fitness.
- Covers category 1 and category 2 hazards.
- Court will judge whether the dwelling is “not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition”.
- No need for a full HHSRS inspection or report by an environmental health officer. Tenantcould supply photos/GP report as proof.
- Expert evidence might be needed in more complex cases to identify cause and extent.
- Tenants will be able to sue the landlord for breach of the implied term (fitness for human habitation).
- May obtain an injunction to compel the works to be carried out.
- Damages –likely to be assessed on the basis of putting the tenant back in the position they would have been in had the implied term been performed.
- Possibly a repudiatory breach of contract which would enable tenant to treat tenancy as terminated.
- Responsibility arises once LL is notified of the issue –immediate responsibility arises in relation to common parts of a block of flats or HMO.
- Work should be carried out in a reasonable time (will vary).
Defences and exceptions
- Unfitness caused by the tenant
- Damage by storm/fire/flood –events beyond landlord’s control
- Problem caused by tenant’s possessions
- Landlord unable to get consent for the works, e.g. from freeholder/planning authority. Mustbe evidence of an attempt.
- Doing the work would put the landlord in breach of any obligation imposed by anyenactment, e.g. unfit building is subject to listed building restrictions.