A fifth of the UK population now lives in rental accommodation. The Fitness for Human Habitation Act came into force just last week. This new Act is designed to ensure all rental accommodation meets certain criteria.

The rental property must be free of defects and this includes all private rentals, housing association rentals and any social tenants including council houses. 

The prescribed potential hazards are listed in Section 10 include the following: 

  • the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
  • the building is unstable
  • there’s a serious problem with damp
  • it has an unsafe layout
  • there’s not enough natural light
  • there’s not enough ventilation
  • there is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
  • there are problems with the drainage or the lavatories
  • it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
  • or any of the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005

The purpose of the Act is to improve the standard of rental property and to give tenants a right to take action that will require landlords to repair or rectify any problem areas. 

At present the legislation applies only to new tenancies, tenants who have rented property prior to 20th
March 2019 will need to wait a year before their tenancy is covered by the new Act giving landlords 12 months to deal with any issues. 

Exceptions to the rules include

  • Acts of god, such as fires, floods and storms
  • Any issues which are caused by the tenant or their possessions

How long do landlords have to rectify any issues?

Landlords will be given reasonable timescales, but they are considered responsible at the point they are made aware of an issue by the tenant.

Penalties

If the courts decide that a property is not fit for human habitation, they have the authority to issue a compulsory improvement notice as well as offering compensation to the tenant.

The full guide for landlords can be viewed here.

David Asker

David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance

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