The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 – explained
While most landlords will be aware if they are compliant with the newly imposed Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. For social landlords that are in charge of a large number of properties, this may bring with it greater challenges and difficulties that have made you less prepared to meet your compliance obligations.
What is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act?
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, was enacted in March 2019 as an update to the Landlord and Tenants Act 1985. The Act has brought in changes in law that now allows for tenants to take their landlord to court if they believe their home is not fit for human habitation. The court can then decide whether the landlord is required to provide repairs and or compensation to the tenant.
As a landlord, it is important to familiarise yourself with the Act, and ensure that you act before the Act.
What does the Act cover?
The Act covers all potential defects in social or private rented dwellings. You can find a more detailed account of what the Act covers here.
Why are we talking about the Act now?
Whilst some people may be aware of this Act that came into effect earlier this year, many will not know of its existence , or that that some of the changes will only come into effect as of March of 2020.
What are these changes?
When the law was enacted in March of 2019, it only covered newer tenancies. This applied to any new tenancies (of less than seven years) including a renewal of an existing tenancy from then. It also covered tenancies that were fixed term and becoming periodic on or after 20 March 2019.
Any tenancies that became periodic before 20 March 2019, only adhere to the Act 12 months from commencement (March 2020). This means that all tenancies as of March 2020 will be covered by the Act, which is expected to catch many landlords out – make sure that you are not one of these.
What should I do?
Again, the main thing you can do is to familiarise yourself with the Act. Make sure you understand exactly what is required of you and potentially, what solicitors and your tenants will be looking for.
As a landlord, you possibly do not have the knowledge of the regulations, nor the time to assess all of your properties thoroughly and to a high standard. This is why it is essential to have a Fitness for Human Habitation Audit conducted by a professional surveyor.
What is a Fitness for Habitation Audit?
A Fitness for Human Habitation Audit is an in-depth assessment of a property and the relevant documents, conducted by a qualified auditor.
Some key things that auditors focus on are:
Are there any black spot mould and or damp issues? Whether it is Rising Penetrating or Condensation, damp or mould is linked to respiratory issues. Leaving it untreated is a breach of the Act.
Do/does the home(s) have adequate ventilation? All bathrooms and kitchens must have working fans that are connected to the light switches and cannot be turned off by tenants. As well as fans, windows will be checked for trickle vents and to ensure they are always open. Existing vents through brickwork into rooms are usually blocked by tenants. Auditors will check to make sure these are free from obstructions.
Do/does the home(s) provide adequate Heating? The heating may be working fine in a property, but if the size of the radiator is not correct for the room it is intended to heat, this will be classed as inadequate heating.
Do tenants have proper access to adequate lighting? While rooms can easily be lit up with a lamp, tenants have a right to light. This refers to natural light, so assessors will check to see if windows are obstructed by trees or shrubs etc.
How old are the kitchens and bathrooms? If kitchens or bathrooms are over ten years old, they will be classed as unfit for human habitation. Most housing associations and councils should have a rolling ten-year cyclical plan for replacement of these items, but should be brought up to date.
There are a lot more intricate and in-depth assessments that auditors will look for, and they do this over many different properties, so it is important that this is done by a qualified auditor.
Why Pennington Choices?
Pennington Choices are one of the only companies to offer a Fitness for Human Habitation Audit, which you can read about here. This is a service that we have spent time researching, planning and perfecting to ensure that we are able to perform high quality compliance checks on both large and small volumes of properties.
As an RICS accredited company, with over 19 years of experience in building surveying and property consultancy, our services are trusted by many businesses, big and small. To see some of our previous work, follow this link.