Is your property fit for habitation under new regulations?

Is your property fit for habitation under new regulations?

As of the 20th March, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 will be in force. The Act is an update to the Tenant and Landlord Act 1985 and is designed to ensure that all tenants have adequate living conditions.

With these new laws, which covers tenancies in England of seven years or fewer, the government wants to clamp down on issues that make rental homes uninhabitable. These issues include, but are not limited to, damp and mould growth, drainage and sanitation issues, carbon monoxide, overcrowding, asbestos and MMF, poor water supply and any electricity hazards.

Under new regulations, tenants also have the right to take legal action against landlords if they fail to provide safe accommodation.

So, what does this mean for landlords? It goes without saying that they will have to be extra vigilant when it comes to the living standards of their property. They will need to make sure that their property has a safe layout, that it provides enough natural lighting, has adequate food preparation areas and that it’s properly ventilated, as well as ensuring that the property avoids of any of the issues mentioned above.

However, there are certain circumstances where the landlord will not be liable for damages to the property. This includes accidental damage from bad weather or issues that are a result of the tenant’s actions.

Landlords will have to carry out regular checks on their property and they will have to closely review their repair policies. Failure to do so will mean that the tenant can apply directly to the courts for an injunction to compel their landlord to tackle any issues and pay compensation for any damages. Prior to these changes in law, an offence was only committed if a landlord failed to comply with an Improvement Notice supplied by local authorities. This meant that inadequate accommodation could be legally rented out if the authorities weren’t notified.

Landlords will also have to ensure tenants understand these new regulations and that they are cooperative when it comes to safety inspections and reporting issues. This is not always straightforward as the landlord will have to trust that the tenant will take on board the information provided to them – and then there’s the issue of tenants refusing to let landlords into their property for whatever reason or not reporting issues where they should have.

‘Of course, there are going to be tenants that will refuse access for inspections,’ says Madalena Penny, founder of Penny Joseph lettings agents in Southport. ‘As a result, some tenants create unhealthy living environments for themselves.’

Penny also stated that landlords need to be vigilant on safety from the outset of the tenancy: ‘It’s important that a thorough inspection is undertaken before the tenancy has begun, and that the tenant is present during the inspection and signs the inventory.’

The key is for landlords to cover all bases by gathering evidence of inspections or attempted inspections and keep any correspondence regarding issues with the property that has been reported. Also provide the tenants with literature that clearly outlines the basics of keeping their home safe and habitable.

Obviously, most landlords are committed to the health and safety of their tenants and they already take the necessary precautions to make their property livable. The difference now is that landlords who don’t are less likely to get away with it.

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