ARE YOUR CLIENT’S PROPERTIES FIT FOR HUMAN HABITATION?
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill comes into force on 20 March, introducing yet another piece of regulation on the radar on landlords. For most landlords it is unlikely to cause any concern, but it’s worth landlords being proactive to ensure their properties comply with the regulations as they could otherwise find themselves forced to carry out improvements, be subject to compensation claims, or even sued for damages.
So, who is covered by the Act and what does fit for human habitation mean?
Properties covered by the Act.
The Act covers all tenancies of less than seven years in both the social and private rented sectors and includes the dwelling let to a tenant and all parts of the building in which the landlord has an interest. So, for example, the common areas of a block of flats owned by a landlord or common parts of an HMO.
What does fit for human habitation mean?
The Act says that a property will be considered unfit for habitation if there are serious defects in any of the following – repair, stability, freedom from damp, internal arrangement, natural lighting, ventilation, water supply, drainage and sanitary conveniences, or facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water.
Whether a defect is considered serious enough to render the property unfit for human habitation is something that will ultimately be decided by the courts.
If a property is deemed to be unfit for human habitation, it will usually be the landlord’s responsibility to carry out such works to put the issue right. However, there are some exceptions and landlords are not obliged to rebuild or reinstate a destroyed building, put right unfitness the tenant is responsible for causing, or carry out works which are the responsibility of a superior landlord, or for which they cannot obtain.
Should landlords be concerned?
In reality, a reasonably maintained property should not be deemed unfit and only landlords of properties suffering serious disrepair issues should be affected. However, it is still worth being aware of the Act’s provisions and landlords may wish to be proactive and have their portfolios inspected prior to legislation coming into force.