The Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Act 2018 is one of the most significant legislation changes to be made in recent years and enables tenants whose properties are not fit for human habitation to take their landlords to court without having to consult the local authorities.
This new legislation will clamp down on landlords who are required to ensure that the property is fit for human habitation when the lease is granted or, at the beginning of the tenancy and that it will remain so throughout the duration of the tenancy.
Regarding what makes a home unfit for habitation, factors include damp, lack of drainage or sanitary conveniences, poor ventilation and lack of water supply.
The result of a tenant taking legal action could be a court order requiring the landlord to take action to reduce or remove the hazard and/or pay damages to compensate the tenant for the harm caused.
Nina Patel, Head of Housing and Social Welfare at Broudie Jackson Canter Solicitors, said: “Many of our clients come to us as a last resort because they are living in uninhabitable properties that their landlords refuse to improve or repair – despite repeated requests. This is unacceptable, but sadly the law in the area has been rather vague and often left tenants in a vulnerable position without many avenues of recourse.
“The introduction of the Homes Act is very welcome and long overdue, it has the potential to really empower tenants and provide them with a clear and direct course of action should they find themselves in a situation where the property they are renting is judged to be uninhabitable.”
Currently, around 750,000 privately rented homes contain ‘category one hazards’, hazards with the potential to seriously affect the health and safety of the tenants.
Under current laws, tenants must undergo the lengthy process of reporting the issue to their local authority who will then assess the problem against the Housing Health and Safety Rating system (HHSRS) but, worryingly, only one in every 22 renters who report disrepair can expect change.
Labour MP Karen Buck, who pioneered the Homes Act, said: “The most vulnerable tenants are those most at risk of being trapped in sub-standard accommodation and they are often least able to withstand the damage such conditions do”.
The Act will initially apply to all new tenancies (of a term less than seven years) granted on or after March 20th 2019. It will then extend to all periodic tenancies after twelve months, so from March 20th 2020.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 applies to tenants living in England only. As with a disrepair claim, some tenants may still be eligible for Legal Aid.
"The introduction of the Homes Act is very welcome and long overdue, it has the potential to really empower tenants and provide them with a clear and direct course of action."
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