With effect from 20 March 2019, this Act provides tenants in England with a right to take action if their property is not fit for human habitation.
The legislation amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 by adding new sections 9A, 9B AND 9C, requiring landlords to ensure their property is fit for human habitation at the start of the term and thereafter maintain this standard throughout the tenancy. If this standard is not met, the legislation allows for tenants to bring court action without involving the local authority, allowing them to not only claim damages from the landlord for the entire length of the contract but also force the landlord to perform the repairs.
It will apply to new tenancies of a term of less than 7 years and all tenancies renewed for a fixed term granted on or after 20 March 2019.
It will only apply to individuals, meaning that housing associations or local authorities will not be able to seek protection under this provision.
This legislation exemplifies the tougher standard imposed on landlords which cannot be avoided or contracted out of, requiring landlords to be more vigilant when renting a home. For example, as listed under s10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, “regard shall be had to [the condition of the house] in respect of the following matters:-
- freedom from damp
- internal arrangement
- natural lighting
- water supply
- drainage and sanitary conveniences
- facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
The list also includes “any prescribed hazard”, intending to incorporate the hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (“the HHSRS”) which currently lists 29 hazards such as asbestos, pests and electrical hazards.
However, the landlord is not responsible for a defective matter if the defect:-
- is brought about by the tenant’s behaviour;
- is an “Acts of God” – completely beyond the landlord’s control;
- relates to property/items not included in the inventory at the beginning of the tenancy; or
- requires the consent of a third party which is not given despite the landlord making reasonable endeavours to obtain that consent.
Bearing the above in mind, it is important to remember that the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 implies that the landlord may enter the dwelling for the purpose of assessing the habitability at reasonable hours of the day, provided that 24 hours written notice has been given.