Fitness for Human Habitation bill becomes law
2018 ends with more protection for tenants
On 20th December 2018, Karen Buck’s Private Member’s Bill gained Royal Assent and is now the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.
The new law, which makes changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, requires both private and social landlords to provide tenants with residential properties that are fit for human habitation.
This slim, two-page statute comes into force on 20 March 2019 and only applies to tenancies made after that date. This includes renewals or tenancies moving from fixed terms to periodic (so-called ‘rolling contracts’).
The legislation doesn’t cover tenancies that have been signed and executed before this date, even if the tenants occupy the property after 20th March.
Meanwhile, periodic tenancies signed before 20th March 2019 will be covered from 20th March 2020.
Longer fixed term tenancies, i.e. 18- or 24-month contracts, that started before 20th March 2018 will not be affected until they become periodic or are renewed.
The new law’s definition of fit for human habitation adopts the 29 hazard profiles used by the current The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSR).
If a landlord doesn’t meet these standards, tenants have the right to take legal action against them for a breach of contract.
Landlord groups have been roundly in favour of the law, as it uses existing standards.
It also protects landlords by ensuring they are not liable for any actions taken by the tenants that make the property uninhabitable.
Anyone worried that tenants might head straight for the courts can stand easy. The law still requires tenants to notify landlords of any disrepairs and that landlords or their agents have an opportunity to carry out work to fix issues. It also states that tenants must allow access to the property for inspections.
Tenants will need hard evidence that the landlord has failed to effect repairs, before going to court.
The day-to-day reality of the new law is that as long as you continue to regularly inspect the property and fix maintenance reports raised by tenants, there is no reason to behave any differently than normal. Purple Frog’s managed clients will of course know that we have a large team of property managers and contractors who will keep on top of this for you.
While the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act will use the provisions ready supplied by HHSR, they are not the same thing.
While HHSR assesses notional risk in a property, Fitness for Human Habitation looks at the property in terms of the person actually living there.
This means that the law will use the 29 hazard profiles in a different way to the existing rating system. The Government has said that it will bring out guidance for local authorities before the 20th March.
Below you will find the 29 hazard profiles currently defined by HHSR.
29 HHSRS hazard profiles
1 Damp and mould growth
2 Excess cold
3 Excess heat
4 Asbestos (and MMF)
6 Carbon Monoxide and fuel combustion products
9 Uncombusted fuel gas
10 Volatile Organic Compounds
Space, Security, Light and Noise
11 Crowding and space
12 Entry by intruders
Hygiene, Sanitation and Water Supply
15 Domestic hygiene, Pests and Refuse
16 Food safety
17 Personal hygiene, Sanitation and Drainage
18 Water supply
19 Falls associated with baths
20 Falling on level surfaces etc.
21 Falling on stairs
22 Falling between levels
Electric Shocks, Fires, Burns and Scalds
23 Electrical hazards
25 Flames, hot surfaces etc.
Collisions, Cuts and Strains
26 Collision and entrapment
28 Position and operability of amenities etc.
29 Structural collapse and falling elements
If you’re a landlord with student property and would like to speak to someone about how Purple Frog can help you keep up-to-date with changes in legislation and regulations, please fill in the form on our landlords page, here: https://www.purplefrogproperty.com/landlords/. One of our account managers will call to speak to you.