Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018: a further reason for a raft of disrepair claims

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which comes into force on 20 March 2019, amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (HFHHA), which comes into force on 20 March 2019, amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (LTA) and requires all Landlords, whether in the social or private rented sector, to ensure that the homes they let are fit for human habitation.

Background

Section 8 of the LTA provides that there is an implied obligation on Landlords to ensure that a home is fit for human habitation and remains so for the duration of the tenancy. This principle is identical to that which will be introduced by the HFHHA; however the provisions in the LTA are rendered inoperable by virtue of being linked to extremely outdated rent limits which have not changed since the 1950s.

The HFHHA was thought to be needed due to widespread concern in relation to the standards of properties in the private rented sector and social sector, particularly in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

What does the HFHHA do?

The HFHHA introduces a new Section 9 into the LTA 1985 which implies an obligation into a tenancy agreement that the house is a) fit for human habitation and b) will remain fit for human habitation for the duration of the tenancy.

What type of tenancy does the HFHHA apply to?

The new Section 9 applies to all tenancies for a term of 7 years or less that are granted after 20 March 2019, including renewals of existing tenancies and also where a fixed term tenancy become periodic after that date. Where the tenancy is currently a periodic or secure tenancy the provisions will not apply until 20 March 2020.

What constitutes unfitness for human habitation?

Section 10 of the LTA provides that:

10(1) in determining whether a house is unfit for human habitation regard shall be had to its condition in respect of the following matters:

  • Repair;
  • Stability;
  • Freedom from damp;
  • Internal arrangement;
  • Natural lighting;
  • Ventilation;
  • Water supply;
  • Drainage and sanitary conveniences;
  • Facilities for the preparation and cook of food and for the disposal of waster water;
  • In relation to a dwelling in England, any prescribed hazard.

and the house shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.

10(2) In subsection (1) “prescribed hazard” means any matter or circumstance amounting to a hazard for the time being prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State under section 2 of the Housing Act 2004.

10(3) The definition of “hazard” in section 2(1) of the Housing Act 2004 applies for the purposes of subsection (2) as though the reference to a potential occupier were omitted.

The amended Section 10 LTA introduces, by virtue of Section 10(2), the Housing Health and Safety Rating System into the equation when determining whether a defect renders to house unfit for human habitation.

Effect of the HFHHA?

If the house is unfit then the Landlord must carry out the works in order to make the property fit again for human habitation, unless the works fall within one of the specified exceptions, including where the defect is as a result of a tenant’s breach of covenant.

Where a Landlord fails to carry out such works as a required to make the property fit again for human habitation the Courts may require specific performance and/or payment of damages.

For further information about Weightmans or to discuss any of the issues in this update, please contact; Matthew Wilson, Associate on 0151 242 6801, matthew.wilson@weightmans.com or Sian Evans, Partner on 0151 242 6821, sian.evans@weightmans.com.

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