On March 20th 2019, a new law came into force to ensure rented houses and flats are “fit for human habitation”. This simply means they are safe and free from anything that could cause harm to physical or mental health.
Most landlords take good care of their properties, but there are those who do not, leaving tenants in substandard or unsafe accommodation. This new law, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, will help these tenants by ensuring properties are kept to standard.
Any landlords who do not take action can be taken to court by their tenants. The court can then enforce the landlord to carry out repairs or put right health and safety issues, as well as pay-out compensation where it is due.
The Homes Act applies to tenants living in social or privately rented homes. You can use the Homes Act immediately if you signed your tenancy agreement contract on or after 20th March 2019. If you signed your contract before 20th march 2019, you will need to wait until 20th March 2020 before you can use the Homes Act. If you sign a new tenancy or your tenancy becomes a monthly rolling contract in the meantime, then you will then be eligible to use the Homes Act.
The criteria for determining whether a property is considered fit for human habitation stems from existing legislation – the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005. In summary, these factors will determine whether:
If you do have one of these issues in your rented property, you may be eligible to use the Home Acts.
The first thing you should do, if you think that your rented home wouldn’t pass the test, is to report any repairs that are needed to your landlord. Under law, they have a reasonable amount of time to make repairs and improvements to the property. However, if your landlord fails to act, or doesn’t fix the problem properly after a reasonable amount of time, you may be able to make a housing disrepair claim against them through the Homes Act.
You should also report damages to the property to your local council. They can take enforcement action against your landlord to make them carry out repairs or works. You do not have to wait for your local council to take action to use the Homes Act. If you think there is a serious health and safety problem at your rented house or flat, you can tell your council at the same time as taking your landlord to court.