NEW LEGISLATION – FITNESS FOR HUMAN HABITATION GUIDE

News at Robert Oulsnam and Company | 21/03/2019


NEW LEGISLATION – FITNESS FOR HUMAN HABITATION GUIDE

What is it?  What do I need to know?

OVERVIEW OF CURRENT LEGISLATION

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is being amended by the inclusion of the Fitness for Human Habitation Act.  This comes into effect on March 20th, 2019. The current legislation sets out the obligations that both a tenant and a landlord have whilst active parties in a rental agreement.  It aims to set out the minimum rights that a tenant has and can expect their landlord to comply with.

WHAT IS THE FITNESS FOR HUMAN HABITATION GUIDE?

This new legislation is primarily concerned with the state of the property at the commencement of any new tenancy agreement. It also ensures that this minimum standard is maintained throughout the time that the tenant lives in the property. As with the Landlord and Tenant Act, the purpose is to explain the obligation of the landlord to the tenant and spell out clearly the minimum rights and standards a tenant has and can expect their landlord to comply with.

It is important to note, that at the moment this amendment only applies to tenancies in England, not Scotland or Wales.

WHAT DOES FITNESS FOR HUMAN HABITATION ACTUALLY MEAN?

At the moment, local authorities use a Housing Health and Safety Rating System to determine if a property is suitable for someone to live in.  These are pretty generic tests applied across the entire spectrum of tenants in many different types of property.  

The term ‘fit for human habitation’ does not apply such broad genericity.  An important differentiator here, is that fit for human habitation bases the suitability of the property against the needs of the human.  So, an example could be than someone with mobility difficulties would have a lower threshold than say a younger or fitter tenant.

The suitability might be judged against a number of factors in the property:

  • State of repair;
  • Natural lighting;
  • Ventilation or damp issues;
  • Water supply and drainage;
  • Sanitation;
  • Cooking facilities.

The House Housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) will still be taken into account as an assessment of issues as well.

WHAT DOES FITNESS FOR HUMAN HABITATION NOT COVER?

Of course, whilst the landlord is responsible for ensuring a minimum standard of habitation, they are not responsible for maintaining these standards if a tenant has caused a defect.

So, if a tenant is negligent or causes intentional damage, this is not covered under this legislation.  The tenants deposit for the property exists in order to protect the landlord from damages caused in this way.

The landlord is also not responsible for maintaining tenant’s own property.  Additionally, landlords cannot be held responsible for rebuilding the property if it is damaged by flooding, fire or any other catastrophic weather!

WHO SHOULD NOTIFY THE LANDLORD ABOUT A POTENTIAL DEFECT?

Well, at commencement of the tenancy agreement, all parties involved including the estate agent should be able to confirm that the property meets the legislation guidelines.  If, during the tenancy, a potential defect is noticed then the notification depends on the type of tenancy.  This is working on the assumption that, whilst nothing is explicit in the new legislation, it will work on the same principle as Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

JOINT TENANCY NOTIFICATION:

Landlords must be notified of any defect that arises in the interior of the property during the tenancy. They should then be allowed a reasonable time to fix this.

ROOM ONLY NOTIFICATION:

If the defect occurs in the tenant's room, then the landlord's obligation to fix the defect should only start after the tenant has notified them.

If a property is managed by an estate agent, periodic inspections should flag up any necessary remedial actions on the property which the landlord is then advised to action.  If the property is not managed by an agent, the tenant can involve the council in the first instance, but this legislation is not enforced by them. 

Any judgement on the state of habitation in accordance with the fit for human habitation act will be made by the courts. So, if you’re a landlord, it might be a good idea to increase the frequency of your inspections so as to spot any issues as swiftly as possible!

WHAT TENANCIES DOES THE FIT FOR HUMAN HABITATION LEGISLATION APPLY TO?

The fit for human habitation legislation will come into force at different times, for different types of tenancies.  As long as the term of the tenancy is less than 7 years, then it will apply to secure, assured (including assured shorthold) and introductory tenancies, including subletting tenancies.

NEW TENANCIES BEGINNING AFTER MARCH 20TH, 2019

The legislation will apply to any new tenancies granted on or after March 20th, 2019.

EXISTING TENANCIES PRE MARCH 20TH, 2019

As is stands, the legislation will not apply to fixed term tenancies that began or were agreed to begin before March 20th 2019

TENANCIES THAT RENEW ON OR AFTER MARCH 20TH, 2019

The legislation will apply at the point of renewal and landlords should check to ensure the property is fit for human habitation at that point.