What Is the Homes (Fitness) Act?
In a nutshell, the Homes (Fitness) Act – introduced for new tenancies in March, 2019 – allows tenants in England to sue their landlord if they don’t feel their rental property is ‘fit to live in.’ That has since been rolled out to include all tenancies less than seven years.
The full title of the new regulations Bill, for landlords’ keen to know more, is Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act (2018).
By ‘fit’, the Act (crucially) includes, the landlord – or letting agent – failing to make repairs or carry out routine maintenance.
Other interpretations of ‘fit’ cover aspects such as freedom from damp, as well as plenty of natural lighting and ventilation. The property should also have a good water supply, drainage and adequate sanitary conditions. There should also be decent facilities with which to prepare and cook food, together with the means to dispose of waste water.
In fact, there are 29 stipulations, from ensuring the property is free from radon gas and has no asbestos to ensuring it is reasonably safe against intruders.
The Homes Act 2018 Penalties
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act (2018) is in effect an updated and expanded version of the Housing Act (2004). In the latter there were priorities of seriousness. In the new Act no such priorities exist; all contraventions are deemed as ‘serious.’
The main changes introduced by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, as far as landlords is concerned is that their tenant can now take them to court if they feel their tenancy is contravening any of the Act’s stipulations.
Cutting Out The ‘Middle Man’
In doing so, it cuts out the ‘middle man’ ,ie the local authority, whom tenants had to approach first. They would then contact the landlord insisting he or she made changes. To be fair, this often took quite some time since the local authority had their own tenants to look after first.
Tenant Taking Landlord to Court
To take a landlord to court all a tenant requires now is evidence from a surveyor or indeed their own recorded facts which, in their opinion, shows their landlord has indeed contravened the Act.
Exceptions to the Act
- Damage by the tenant him or herself
- Damage to furniture etc caused by flooding or fire
- Work which requires planning permission first
- Work which needs the go-ahead from a freeholder, neighbour or another third party
If you happen to be a portfolio landlord (ie have more than a handful of private rental properties on the go at the one time) then this Act is a good opportunity to check that you are, in fact, up to date with new legislation in the sector.
Having said that, the possibilities of numerous tenants setting out to sue their landlords will be very low, in our opinion here at Property Loop. Why? Well, such a move won’t exactly help landlord and tenant relations.
Not only that, but most landlords, understandably, have a vested interest in their properties remaining in good condition. In that sense they will attend to most repairs when asked.
Not Much Current Take-up of the Act
There is another factor in that the Act has not received a lot of publicity, meaning that not many tenants will be aware of its existence. Instead, it will be up to tenants’ rights groups to flag up its existence in the first place. And, finally, there isn’t much precedence of tenants having sued their landlord so not much research or evidence to go on, and which will undoubtedly put a lot of tenants off in the first place.
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