Tenants and the Homes (Fitness) Act 2018
Until recently as many as 25% of properties in the private rented sector were considered unfit to live in, according to government guidelines. That is as astounding number and it’s why the government introduced the Tenants and the Homes (Fitness) Act (2018).
New Powers for Tenants
The new rules, which became law in March 2019, means tenants can take their landlord to court if he or she fails to maintain a decent standard of property during their tenancy.
In the past tenants whose landlord refused to carry out repairs had no real redress. All they could do was contact the local authority and ask them to serve notice for the repairs to be done. But this could take time and it depended on whether or not the council had the staff to enforce it. Follow-up surveys showed that it was clear the notice action was way down the list of council priorities.
Another reason tenants didn’t pursue the matter with their landlord was many didn’t know it was within their rights to do so. Others feared they would be evicted for getting the council onto their landlord.
The Act, however, makes it far easier for tenants to get things done. That’s because it states that ‘landlords must ensure that their properties are fit for human habitation for the duration of the tenancy.’
Prior to the Act there were nine criteria that the judgement for a ‘fit’ property is based on. This ranged from ensuring the building was stable and there was enough natural light to adequate cooking conditions and a supply of hot and cold water.
A Total of 29 New Criteria Added
Now a further 29 criteria have been added. It looks at such issues as overcrowding, excess heat or cold, security, noise, lead poisoning, waste provision and food safety.
Housing analysts say the Act gives tenants the likelihood of getting their landlord to act, and in a much quicker fashion. That’s because it takes local authorities out of the equation ie the tenant can bypass them and go straight to the court.
The court can then force the landlord to make the repairs and also pay the tenant compensation for the length of time they have lived in the property with the problem.
Cons of the New Act
Many tenants still won’t use the powers of the new Act, however. That’s because two of the reasons tenants were forced to live in poor conditions without repairs, are still in existence, while there is the whole issue of having to go to court in the first place:
Many tenants won’t be aware of the new Act or the powers it brings them. They may only hear about it when, in despair, they visit Citizens Rights or a Housing Charity.
Fear of Eviction
The new Act does nothing to prevent an angry landlord evicting a tenant. And in this day and age with demand for housing far outstripping supply, eviction is much worse than living in sub-standard conditions for many tenants.
Dislike of Court
Not everyone feels comfortable in a court room – in fact, very few ‘ordinary’ members of the public do. Then there are the fees to pay for bringing the case to court and all the paperwork to contend with.
The above sounds very depressing. But it’s certainly not the norm. Most rented housing in the private sector is in good condition and landlords are happy to carry out repairs (it’s their investment, after all). No, it is the ‘rogue’ landlords that the government hopes to pinpoint with this new legislation. Whether the Act is robust enough though, remains to be seen.
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