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Fitness for Human Habitation

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On 20 March 2019 the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (“the Act”) came into force, which will affect all leases created after this date.  The Act amends the current fitness for human habitation requirement found in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (“LTA”) for residential properties. Whilst the Act extends to both England and Wales, the practical changes are for England only.

On the 20 March 2020, this legislation will apply to ALL leases, including ones entered into prior to today.

The aim of the Act is to improve standards in the private and social rented sectors by putting an obligation on landlords to keep their property in good condition and giving tenants the right to take legal action where their landlord fails to do so. The obligations extend to the dwelling and if the dwelling is part of a building, the provisions apply to all parts of the building in which the landlord has an estate or interest.

The Act provides an implied covenant by the landlord that the dwelling:

  1. is fit for human habitation at the time the lease is granted or otherwise created or, if later, at the beginning of the term of the lease, and
  2. will remain fit for human habitation during the term of the lease.

The landlord is unable to contract out of these obligations.

However, if the unfitness of the dwelling is wholly or mainly as a result of the tenant’s own breach of covenant, then there will be no liability for that unfitness by the landlord.

S10 LTA provides the factors that should be considered to determine whether a dwelling is unfit and has been extended to include any prescribed hazard. Therefore, a rental property may be regarded unfit if “it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition”, for the additional hazards, including:

  • Repair
  • Stability
  • Freedom from damp
  • Internal arrangement
  • Natural lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Water supply
  • Drainage and sanitary conveniences; and
  • Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water.

As cases start to come before the Court, we will gradually get a better understanding of the Court’s approach to interpreting the point a hazard exists and whether it is so defective that the dwelling is not suitable for occupation. If are a landlord, and your rental property has serious disrepair issues, you should ensure that these are resolved irrespective of new legislation.

If you require any assistance with understanding your rights or obligations, the Dispute Resolution team at BakerLaw have great experience in property related matters, therefore please get in touch.

This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.