Legislation coming into effect in March will bestow new rights for tenants to challenge landlords who fail to maintain standards of rented accommodation.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act will amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to ‘require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation.’
The Act, which comes into force in England and Wales on March 20, will provide social tenants with a ‘tool to compel the local authority to carry out repairs’ and to take their landlords to court if required.
However, the Act does not introduce any new property standards; it simply gives tenants the power to enforce existing standards that landlords have a duty to maintain.
GetSurrey reports that ‘the definition of what qualifies as deeming unfit will please long-suffering tenants.’
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System has been enshrined into the Act to determine whether a house is ‘unfit.’
A property is deemed unfit for human habitation if there are serious issues with repairs, stability, damp, ventilation, water and drainage, natural lighting and food preparation facility defects.
The introduction of provisions for damp and infestation are now included, having not been covered by previous legislation.
Including in the legislation is the provision that tenants are able to apply to the courts directly, to compel their landlord to carry out repairs. In some instances, tenants will be able to apply for damages as a result of their landlord’s inability to maintain property standards.
Additionally, tenants will be able to provide their own evidence in court, such a photographs, without relying on external property surveyors to determine the damage.
For these issues to be covered by the Act, they would need to be serious. As a result, most landlords will not be affected by the new legislation as the majority of rented accommodation are not deemed as ‘unfit’ for human habitation.
The National Landlords Association said about the Act on their website: ‘Most landlords should have nothing to worry about in respect of the new Act.
‘A reasonably maintained property should not be deemed unfit.
‘Only properties suffering serious disrepair issues should be affected, and these should be resolved irrespective of new legislation.’
They added: ‘As with any new regulations, time will tell exactly how it is interpreted by the courts, and whether there are unintended consequences.’
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