On 20 March 2019 a new law came into force to make sure 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.
Most landlords and agents try to make sure that the houses and flats they rent out are safe and secure, warm and dry, but some landlords do not, and this means that some tenants live in dangerous or unhealthy conditions. The new law, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, will help these tenants and make sure irresponsible landlords improve their properties or leave the business.
If rented houses and flats are not ‘fit for human habitation’, tenants can take their landlords to court. The court can make the landlord carry out repairs or put right health and safety problems. In some cases the court can also make the landlord pay compensation to the tenant.
You can use the Homes Act immediately if you signed your tenancy agreement contract on or after 20 March 2019, whether or not this meant you moved into a new property.
If you signed your contract before 20 March 2019, you will have to wait until 20 March 2020 before you can use the Homes Act (unless you sign a new tenancy or your tenancy becomes a monthly rolling contract).
The landlord is responsible for fixing a lot of problems in your home. However, there are some exceptions:
Problems caused by tenant behaviour.
This means that if a tenant or their guests have behaved irresponsibly or illegally, the landlord may not have to fix any problems caused by your behaviour.
Events like fires, storms and floods which are completely beyond the landlord’s control (‘acts of God’)
You won’t be able to use the Homes Act, but you will still be able to contact your local council for help if your landlord doesn’t take the necessary steps to help.
The landlord will not repair your possessions or furniture belonging to previous tenants
For example, if it is not included in the inventory at the beginning of your tenancy (this is why you need contents insurance!).
If the landlord hasn’t been able to get permission from certain other people.
You will not be able to use the Homes Act when the landlord has not been able to get permission to do work from people like the owners of a building that has flats in it, or the local council if planning permission is needed. You are allowed to ask for evidence that your landlord has tried to get permission, and you will still be able to contact your local council for help.
Your landlord has a duty to repair any problems in your home in a reasonable amount of time. This amount of time will depend on what the problem is and how serious it is.
For a full list of items that are covered and steps to follow should you need the assistance of the Homes Act please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018/guide-for-tenants-homes-fitness-for-human-habitation-act-2018