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There’s No Place Like Home: New landlord legislation

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The Fitness for Human Habitation Act came into force for tenancies in England last year. From March 2020, the grace period no longer applies. The landlord legislation applies immediately to all tenancies.

So here is a quick guide for landlords, with information gleaned from GOV.UK.

What it is and who exactly does this legislation apply to?

This legislation amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, so that all landlords (private and social) must ensure their properties are fit for human habitation both at the start and throughout the tenancy.

If a landlord fails to meet this, the tenant can seek redress without having to rely on their local authority to do so. The landlord would then be required to take action to reduce or remove the hazard or damages, and possibly pay compensation to their tenant, by order of the court.

There are exceptions. The landlord would not be required to provide remedy when:

  • the hazard is caused by tenant behaviour
  • the problem is caused by fires, storms and floods (beyond the landlord’s control)
  • the fault is caused by the tenants’ own possessions
  • the landlord hasn’t been able to get consent e.g. planning permission, permission from freeholders etc.
  • the tenant is not an individual, e.g. local authorities, national parks, housing associations, educational institutions
  • the tenant has a ‘licence to occupy’, instead of tenancy agreement e.g. lodgers, property guardians etc.

From 20 March 2020 the Act will apply to all periodic tenancies.

How can landlords ensure they follow this legislation?

Landlords will need to make sure that their property is free of hazards which are so serious that the dwelling is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition. Hazards include structural issues, damp, lack of ventilation, lack of natural light, a problem with the supply of hot and cold water, issues with drainage, and so on. Regular checks in between and during tenancies will help landlords to prevent any issues from developing or occurring. 

Why is this legislation good for landlords?

GOV.UK says that the government expects standards to improve as the tenant has the option to take action if the landlord fails to adequately maintain their property. This should benefit good landlords who are already maintaining homes fit for human habitation without serious hazards. Why? Because landlords who knowingly and persistently flout their responsibilities cannot undercut them.