What does the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 mean for tenants?
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 was passed in December 2018 and came into force on 20th March 2019 for new tenancies and renewals, including fixed term tenancies that become periodic, after this date, in England and Wales. For those already on a periodic tenancy before 20th March 2019, the act will apply to you from 20th March 2020.
This piece of legislation builds on the previous law related to fitness for human habitation, found in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
The new legislation makes all landlords responsible for ensuring their rental properties are fit for human habitation at the start and throughout the tenancy. If landlords fail to do this, tenants now can take their landlord to court for breaching their contract; forcing the landlord to complete the repairs or improvements needed and potentially resulting in compensation for the tenant.
How do I know what type of tenancy I am on?
There are several different types of tenancy. The paperwork that you were provided with when your tenancy began should tell you what type of agreement you have and you should check with your landlord if you are unsure, but the main types of tenancy include:
An assured shorthold tenancy (AST)
This type of tenancy is most common for private renters who started their tenancy after 28th February 1997. This usually starts as a fixed term (often 6 or 12 months) and can either be renewed at the end, or automatically moves on to a periodic tenancy if the tenant stays but doesn’t renew a new fixed term.
An assured housing association tenancy
This tenancy is common for those living in a housing association property (unless the tenancy predates 15th January 1989) and essentially means that the tenancy can last a lifetime unless you give the housing association cause to evict you.
A secure council tenancy
This is the most common type of tenancy if you live in a council-owned property and is usually a lifetime agreement.
A starter tenancy/introductory tenancy
This is a tenancy type offered by some housing associations or councils respectively for the first 12 months that a tenant lives in a property. This is usually moved to an assured housing association or a secure council tenancy after the 12 months have passed without issue.
You can find out more about different types of tenancies and the rights associated with them by using Shelter’s tenancy checker tool.
What does ‘fit for human habitation’ mean?
There are several areas of a home that are judged when it’s being decided if they are fit for human habitation or not. If the property is considered to have significant defects in one of more of the below areas, it can be considered an unfit home, at the discretion of a judge.
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary conveniences
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
- Hazards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System
If you think that your home is not fit for human habitation because you don’t believe it meets adequate standards in one or more of the above areas, you can ask your landlord to do the necessary works. If they do not do this within a reasonable amount of time, you can apply to take them to court on the basis of this new legislation.
If the actions of the current tenant have resulted in the damage, disrepair or any of the other issues that make the property fall below acceptable standards, the landlord is not liable for rectifying these.
Does the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 still apply if I am a social housing tenant?
This new legislation will apply to housing association and council tenancies as well as private ones. For those already a tenant before 20th March 2019, the Act will apply to them from 20th March 2020. Only those tenancies that start (or renew, or move to a periodic tenancy) on or after 20th March 2019 will be covered by the legislation for the first 12 months after it is rolled out.
If you have any questions about the impact of this new legislation on your council or housing association tenancy and your rights to live in a safe and adequate home, get in touch. Even if you are not covered by the new legislation until 2020, you may still be able to make a claim now if your social housing landlord has not carried out essential repairs to you home that put you or anyone in your household at risk.