There are important rules about whether a home is fit for habitation in respect of private, housing association or local authority tenants. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (scheduled to come into force 20 March 2019) amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that any property let by a landlord (private or social) is fit for human habitation when a tenancy is granted and remains so for its duration.
When the law applies
The Act covers all tenancies less than seven years in length in both the social and private rented sectors that started or were renewed on or after 20 March 2019.
For tenancies that began before 20 March 2019 you will be covered:
- when your fixed term tenancy ends and you stay on as a tenant
- from 20 March 2020 if you don’t have a fixed term tenancy
The requirement includes the dwelling let to a tenant and all parts of any building it forms a part of, in which the landlord has an interest. It will also extend to all existing tenancies which meet this criteria, including periodic tenancies and legacy regulated tenancies.
The new legislation does not help;
- A licensee (including most lodgers)
- If you have a fixed term tenancy with a private landlord, and the term is for more than 7 years
- If you are awaiting a decision on your homeless application whilst in temporary accommodation
Fit for human habitation
A property is deemed to be unfit for habitation if there are serious defects in any of the following:
- Freedom from damp
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary conveniences; and
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water.
The law states that “the house shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable in that condition”.
Provided it is the responsibility of the landlord they should carry out such works to put the issue right although there are some exemptions. The landlord is not obliged to:
- Rebuild or reinstate a destroyed building
- Put right unfitness the tenant is responsible for causing
- Carry out works which are the responsibility of a superior landlord, or for which they cannot obtain third-party consent
It is the responsibility of your landlord to ensure your home is fit to live in, when you move in, and throughout your tenancy. If your home is not deemed fit as per the law the landlord must do whatever work is needed to make it fit.
Reporting a repair
You should report any problems with your home directly to your landlord they won’t have to do anything about it, until you do. It is always a good idea to follow up any telephone calls in writing or by email, in case there is a dispute later on.
Landlords should take the necessary action to ensure your home if fit for habitation. However, some won’t and some may take steps to evict you if you complain.
You may decide to take action against your landlord. The court may; order your landlord to do the repairs or pay compensation for example. However it would be sensible to obtain advice first.
You may be eligible for legal aid if there is a serious risk of health and safety upon you or your household, and if you claim benefits or are on a low income. Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 3454 345 eligibility.
You could also report the issue to the environmental health team at your local authority. If there is a risk of health and safety to you or your household they may order your landlord to carry out the works.