Parts of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 will come into effect in March 2020. Now is the time to ensure that you are ready for the changes and are fully compliant with the legislation, or potentially face legal repercussions.
What is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act?
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act (FFHH) is an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The amendment came into force in March 2019 to ensure that rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’, which means that they are safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm.
The Act officially came into force on 20 March 2019 for all new tenancies (of less than 7 years). This includes renewal of an existing tenancy from then or a tenancy which was fixed term and becomes periodic on or after this date. However, if a tenancy became periodic before 20 March 2019, the Act will only apply 12 months from commencement (20 March 2020).
For tenants, the change offers new opportunities to hold their landlord to account, without having to rely on their local authority. For landlords and housing associations, this invites opportunities to slip up and make mistakes leading to court summons.
Landlords will not be required to rectify unfitness if:
- the problem is caused by tenant behaviour
- the problem is caused by 'acts of god', such as events like fires, storms and floods which are completely beyond the landlord’s control
- the problem is caused by the tenants’ own possessions
- the landlord hasn’t been able to get consent e.g. planning permission, permission from freeholders etc.
- the tenant is not an individual, e.g. local authorities, national parks, housing associations, educational institutions
The Act does not cover people who have ‘licences to occupy’, instead of tenancy agreements. This may include lodgers (people who live with their landlord) some people who live in temporary accommodation, and some, but not all, property guardians.
Yes, the act is applicable to all landlords whether private or social.
There are no new obligations following the changes, landlords who are meeting their existing responsibilities for property safety and standards should have nothing to worry about.
Landlords who do not comply could be taken to court by tenants for a breach of contract. This could result in the landlord being made to pay compensation to their tenant, or complete the necessary works to improve the property.
The Act will look specifically for whether:
- the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
- the building is unstable
- there’s a serious problem with damp
- it has an unsafe layout
- there’s not enough natural light
- there’s not enough ventilation
- there is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
- there are problems with the drainage or the lavatories
- it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
The Act will also look into a further 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005.
For social landlords, it is important to continue to assure their properties are let and maintained in compliance with the Act. It is also in the best interest of social landlords to rectify any damages that they are responsible for as soon as possible.
To ensure compliance, an audit of the property(s) would be extremely useful. This gives landlords peace of mind as to whether the property meets the standards required. It may also be useful for housing associations to undergo training on the Act to help them gain a better understanding of what to look for and how to correctly follow the laws.
How can we help?
Pennington Choices are corporate members of RICS, with a number of highly experienced surveyors and consultants. Our extensive knowledge and experience in Building Surveying allows us to work proactively in guiding and training social landlords and lawyers on the legal requirements under the FFHH Act.
Services we offer:
Audits: We offer a thorough Fitness for Human Habitation Audit, in which an expert surveyor will assess all of the relevant documents and properties, and produce a detailed, written report. We look for the presence of defects, any risks to Health and Safety and anything that materially interferes with use of property.
Our final report will demonstrate the property’s current compliance under the Fitness for Human Habitation Act and detail the next steps for the landlord to ensure they are fully compliant with the new legislation.
Follow this link for more on FFHH Audits.
Training: We offer comprehensive training for social landlords and housing associations to help them understand their legal requirements under the Fitness for Human Habitation Act. All of our training is bespoke and can be delivered in-house, or at a convenient location.
The training covers the main aspects of the law, how to assess the property, how to prevent against issues and how to act on any finds.
Follow this link for more on FFHH Training.