The Fitness for Human Habitation Act: what you need to know

With the furore around the Tenant Fee Ban, it has been easy to miss the latest lettings legislation which came in to place last month on 20th March – the Fitness for Human Habitation Act. The implementation of this Act means that tenants will have further rights to request improvements to homes which fall into the “sub-standard” category.

The Fitness for Human Habitation Act is a revival of the Landlord and Tenant Act from 1985, essentially reinforcing the covenant and bringing the standard of lettings accommodation back to the forefront of legislation.

Who does the Act apply to?
The Act will apply to:
Tenancies shorter than 7 years, starting on or after 20th March 2019
Tenancies renewed for a fixed term on or after 20th March 2019

From 20th March 2020, the Act will apply to all periodic tenancies that started before the initial commencement date of 20th March 2019 – landlords with current tenancies, therefore, have 12 months before the requirements from the Act come into place.

How would a property be deemed unfit for human habitation?
The Act stipulates 29 different ‘hazards’ which determine whether a house is ‘fit for human habitation’. The hazards include but are not limited to:

• Condensation, damp and mould growth
• Excessive cold or heat
• Security (or lack, thereof)
• Fire, gas and electrical safety
• Natural lighting
• Water supply
• Sanitation
• Facilities for preparing and cooking food
• Hazards posed by the internal arrangement
• State of repair

Your property might be deemed unfit “If, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.” If a property is deemed unfit, then it is the landlord’s responsibility to make improvements to the property and/or compensate the tenant.

Are there any exceptions to the Act?
There are some exceptions in cases where:

• The problems with the property are caused by tenant behaviour
• The problems are caused by ‘acts of God’ such as storms, floods and fire
• The problem is caused by the tenants’ belongings

To read the full government legislation, click here.

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