It is likely you will have heard of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 because there have been many media articles regarding the Act. The media interest is because the Act provides tenants have the right to sue landlords. Many tenants will be happy with this opportunity, and rogue landlords should be concerned.
However, it is natural that many law-abiding landlords are worried about being sued. The fact that tenants can go to the courts rather than the local council authority is useful in some cases, but not helpful in all cases. Some landlords may have to deal with claims that aren’t valid but which do make it to court. Even cases dismissed early can be expensive and stressful.
Landlords have new responsibilities with this Act
Therefore, landlords need to be aware of their responsibilities with the new Act. The Act applies at the start of the tenancy and throughout the lease. Landlords, therefore, should be mindful of repair responsibilities and ensure they provide tenants with a dependable service throughout the rental period.
For human habitation, landlords are obliged to deal with:
- Problems relating to dampness
- A lack of natural light in the rental property
- Rental accommodation which has an unsafe layout
- Issues which hamper a tenant in cooking food or washing up
- Problems relating to lavatories or drainage
- Slips or trips associated with uneven surfaces, stairs, baths and showers
If the court decides the landlord is responsible for the problem, they may order the landlord to repair the issue. The Act also applies to common areas of the building, not just the rental accommodation.
The landlord may not be responsible for repairs. When the court decides the tenant has caused the problem, the landlord will not be forced to make repairs. If the court believes an ‘Act of God’ has created the problem, the landlord will not be obliged to carry out repairs. If the landlord has tried to obtain consent for repairs but has been unable to achieve this consent, they will not be responsible for repair work.
Landlords should improve communication with tenants
In reality, there will be changes to the way some landlords engage with their tenants. When there is dampness in the property, landlords can no longer advise the tenant to dry clothes outside of the property or to open their windows. In this example, the landlord would have to provide a robust solution to the problem. It is recommended landlords undertake more maintenance work at their property to ensure it remains in excellent condition.
Landlords can no longer suggest that tenants open windows or dry clothes outside to deal with damp – the requirements are now much more stringent. Landlords will have to be much more involved in the maintenance of their property and tenants will acquire further abilities to ensure that their rented property is safe and in good repair.
Landlords are advised to review their rental property and consider any complaints or problems raised by tenants. If there are issues which need to be taken care of, landlords should priorities these issues to minimise the likelihood of a tenant raising an action against them. Landlords and tenants should also define who holds what responsibility in the property, and how rental property improvements should be carried out with respect to human habitation.
I have helped many local landlords, and as a specialist in this sector, I am always happy to assist you.
CEO, Kings Accommodation