COVID-19: The importance of landlords not losing focus on your FFHH obligations

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COVID-19 has resulted in us spending more time than ever in our homes. Therefore, it should go without saying that it is important that our homes are in a fit and safe condition to work and importantly live in, particularly for those in rented accommodation as the onus is on landlords to ensure that this is the case – failure to do so could result in compensation being paid to tenants as part of the Homes Fitness for Human Habitation (FFHH) Act 2018.

What is the FFHH Act?

The FFHH Act or ‘The Homes Act’ is an amendment to the existing Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to explicitly require that residential rented accommodation is maintained in state of fitness for human habitation.

The Act strengthens tenants’ means of redress against landlords who do not fulfil their legal obligations to keep their properties safe, by giving them the power to take legal action against them if they believe their properties are not in a habitable condition.

Should a court then decide that the landlord has not acted and provided its tenant with a fit and safe home, then compensation could be dealt to the tenant along with making sure that the appropriate works are carried out to improve the state of the property.

When facing a repair issue or claim, what are my next steps as a landlord?

For any claims made under the FFHH Act, landlords are only considered responsible from when he or she is made aware of the problem by the tenant – i.e. you cannot held liable for a problem you did not know about/were given time to address it.

However, landlords need to be aware that Governmental advice states that tenants can report any issues of repairs by text or email, and they do not have to adhere to the landlord’s preferred channel for reporting repairs.

Once the issue has been reported to you, you will have a reasonable amount of time to deal with the required repair – this will vary on the circumstances. However, if you are not deemed to be actively attempting to repair it the tenant can take you to court, and from that point it will be the court’s decision to decide whether or not you have acted within a reasonable time frame.

TIP: As a landlord, to put you in the best position from not facing any legal action or compensation claims, carry out and act on any repairs as soon as you have been made aware of them.

COVID-19 and FFHH Act

As a landlord the COVID-19 crisis has added a new layer of difficulty, with regards to access to the property, the safety measures needed and also access to repairers.

Whilst it is acknowledged that there is a need for flexibility with timescales for carrying out work, landlords still need to make sure that they are carried out as soon as reasonably practicable.

As part of the process, landlords should also ensure that the recording of repairs requests and notification of defects is robust, and that proper records and kept and maintained for your protection, along with ensuring that repairs are appropriately assessed and prioritised as part of their COVID recovery plans.

It is important that landlords continue to act throughout the COVID-19, particularly because people are and will be staying at home more, and also because their right to repairs and to claim against negligence is still present.

What can I do to ensure that I am compliant?

The best thing that you can do is to train all of your customer facing staff and to ensure that your contractors are adequately trained in identifying hazards in properties, and also to recognise when a tenant is reporting a potential repair. To aid this, make sure that you have effective reporting and referral mechanisms in place so that issues can be logged and dealt with.

Going that one step further…

As a landlord you can also go that one step further by either arranging FFHH training for your staff or by arranging a FFHH audit of your properties to ensure that they are fit for human habitation.

At Pennington Choices we can assist you with both, by conducting audits through our RICS Chartered Surveyors or by providing training on the FFHH Act. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis we have been delivering our training to clients via Microsoft Teams and Zoom to ensure that organisations are provided with the practical steps and insight into protecting themselves from a claim.

If you would like to find out more on our services visit our webpage here. Alternatively, you can arrange a bespoke FFHH audit or training session by getting in touch with us today by emailing us here.

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