Since my previous article ‘Private Renting Sector – the Wind of Change?’ regarding possible reforms to the private rented sector (PRS), the Government has brought into force the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (the Act). It became law on 20 March 2019, its aim is to drive standards up in the PRS and social housing sector by implying terms into tenancies that properties must be fit for human habitation.
The Government recognises the majority of landlords provide safe and decent homes, but in circumstances where they do not, tenants will have the power to seek redress against their landlord.
The Act considers amongst other things:-
The Act applies to tenancies shorter than seven years that commence on or after 20 March 2019; new secure, assured and introductory tenancies, which start on or after 20 March 2019; tenancies renewed for a fixed term, beginning on or after 20 March 2019 and periodic tenancies starting from the 20 March 2020.
It should be noted that where a fixed term tenancy began before 20 March 2019, landlords will have twelve months from the commencement date of the Act before the requirements come into force.
Tenants will have the power of enforcement through the courts. Remedies include a court order for corrective action and payment of compensation. Local authorities may also take enforcement measures against landlords.
There are certain exceptions where a landlord does not have to take remedial action. Examples include where problems were caused by the tenant being in breach of the tenancy agreement, or by tenants’ possessions, or where the problem is caused by an ‘act of God’ such as fire or storms which are beyond the landlord’s control or where the landlord has been unsuccessful in obtaining the necessary consent, such as planning permission.
The Act is a further step by the Government in empowering vulnerable tenants.
With PRS and social housing estimated to account for approximately 36% of housing in England alone, it is imperative that the small minority of landlords whose properties fall short of safety standards are addressed as soon as possible.
If a tenant raises a concern it may have about the property, or even part of a common area, the landlord should rectify the problem as soon as possible.
Both landlords and tenants should seek independent legal advice if they are unsure of their legal position.