How to know if your rented property meets the new ‘fit for human habitation’ law

On 20th March 2019, a new law came into effect in England which applies to all rented homes (with tenancies of less than seven years) granted after that date, including if your tenancy changed from one type to another after this date. From 20th March 2020, the law will apply to all periodic tenancies, which includes all of the main types of tenancy e.g. assured tenancy. This law is called the Homes (Fit for Human Habitation) Act 2018, also known as the Homes Act.

What does the new ‘fit for human habitation’ law mean?

The new law means that it’s now a legal obligation for a rental property to be deemed fit for human habitation when the tenancy begins and during the term of the lease.

This makes the landlord legally responsible for ensuring the property is in an adequate condition for people to live in. It will be judged on these measures:

  • State of repair/condition of the home
  • Stability of the building
  • Freedom from damp
  • A safe layout inside the home
  • Whether there is enough natural light
  • Whether the property has enough ventilation
  • A safe water supply
  • Whether there are issues with the drainage and sanitary conveniences
  • Whether there is a suitable area for food preparation, cooking and washing up
  • Whether the house has any ‘hazards’, which refers to 29 different hazards under the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005

This law applies to all types of landlords, including private landlords and councils and housing associations responsible for social housing properties.

What isn’t my landlord’s responsibility to fix?

If the issues in the property have been caused by you, the tenant, or someone in your household, behaving irresponsibly or illegally, the landlord may not be required by law to fix the problem.

If there is damage to your home caused by a fire, storm or flood, the Homes Act does not apply in this case.

Some parts of routine maintenance in the home are the tenant’s responsibility to fix or carry out. For more on this, check out our tool to find out if you or your landlord are responsible for tasks or repairs.

What can I do if I think my social housing home is unfit for human habitation?

If your home needs repairs, or any of the above factors looking into, you need to make sure your social landlord is fully aware of the problem(s).

If your landlord is aware of hazards in your home but doesn’t attempt to make repairs within a reasonable amount of time, you, as their tenant, could potentially take them to court. If you are successful in this legal action, your landlord will be ordered by the court to improve the condition of the property to the required levels and you may be eligible for compensation too.

The compensation amount will be decided upon by the judge, based on the harm that they feel has been inflicted on the tenant, the length of time that it has been an issue and the severity of the problems in the property.

If you have complained about disrepair to your social landlord and they have not made the necessary repairs after a reasonable amount of time, or they do not seem to be taking your complaints seriously, you can contact a specialist housing solicitor to help you with your case.

For more information on the Homes (Fit for Human Habitation) Act 2018 or a free claim assessment, contact CEL Solicitors on 0808 281 2660