Landlords are being urged to prepare for the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which came into effect earlier this week, by checking their properties or face the risk of being taken to court.
As many of you already know, this law offers renters the right to sue landlords in England and Wales if properties do not meet certain standards, for example if they are excessively cold or mouldy resulting in them being unfit for habitation.
The new law not only requires standards to be maintained in the property but now also extends to the maintenance of common areas or retained parts.
Lauren Bryan, a chartered legal executive in the dispute resolution department at Thursfields Solicitors in Birmingham, commented: “This new act should prompt landlords to make sure their properties comply with the required standards to avoid unnecessary legal action.
“But if a landlord is served with proceedings or the tenant pleads this as a defence to possession proceedings, they should immediately seek qualified legal advice.
“For example, one issue landlords may face is tenants stating there are problems but then failing to allow the landlord access to fix those problems.
“They and would need to show the court that this is the case and we can advise landlords how to deal with these types of issues.”
Under the new Act, which applies to all new tenancies created after 20 March 2019, including replacement tenancies, and will then apply to all periodic tenancies in existence after 20 March 2020, a property could be deemed unfit for habitation if there are ‘serious’ problems with a wide range of factors.
This includes repairs; stability; damp; internal arrangement; natural lighting; ventilation; water supply; drainage and toilets; and cooking facilities that result in the property being unfit for human habitation.
Bryan added: “While the law will have some positive outcomes by persuading landlords to carry out urgent repairs, it is also just another barrier put before decent landlords and another set of rules to comply with.
“Landlords should check their properties now to ensure they comply with standards and should seek qualified legal assistance if they feel tenants are trying to take undue advantage of the new laws.”