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Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018: Everything landlords need to know

That's the day the Homes (Fit for Human Habitation) Act 2018 comes into force in the UK. For responsible landlords, the new Act should be nothing to worry about. But for those who have perhaps let the maintenance of their buy-to-let property slip, understanding the new legal requirements under the Act will be key.

What does the Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Act 2018 mean?

Landlords' buy-to-let properties need to meet certain criteria under the Act and this will be assessed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Depending on the findings of the assessment, a judge will make a final decision on whether the property is fit for human habitation. Currently, landlords can be hauled over the coals if they fail to comply with an environmental health enforcement notice issued by the local authority. But the new Act, which is an amendment of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, will allow tenants to take direct action against their landlords if the property is found to be inhabitable. Moreover, landlords renting out flats are currently only responsible for their property, but the new Act dictates that they are also responsible for common areas such as stairs and lifts.

Landlords, though, are handed a degree of protection, too. They would not be responsible for:

- Repairs caused by the tenant

- Rebuilding a property if it is destroyed

- Carrying out work requiring consent by a third party (i.e a freeholder) where consent has been requested but not given

What are the criteria under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018?

The HHSRS could review a variety of potential issues in a rental property, including:

- Repairs

- Property stability

- Damp

- Natural light

- Water supply

- Ventilation

- Drainage

- Food preparation facilities

- Wastewater disposal

If a property is deemed defective in one or more of the criteria, it could be labelled an unfit home.

What do I need to do as a landlord?

If your property is managed by a lettings agent such as Martin & Co, regular property inspections by your agent should alert you to any key maintenance issues in good time.

At Martin & Co, we would then engage one of our approved, trusted contractors to undertake repairs as agreed with the landlord. However, for landlords self-managing, many maintenance issues will only come to light if a tenant raises the alarm. This could potentially see some landlords fall foul of the Homes (Fit for Human Habitation) Act. Once a defect is established, a landlord will have a 'reasonable timeframe' to address the issue. So, in the case of a broken boiler during the summer, landlords would potentially have more time to repair or replace the appliance. In the middle of winter, however, this would need to be done far more quickly in order to comply with the Act. Failure to fix a habitation issue in good time could see landlords brought before the courts.

Does the Act apply to all tenancies?

The Act will apply to all tenancies agreed after March 20 2019. Tenancies signed before that date, even if the tenants move in after the date, will not initially be affected. However, the Act is likely to apply to all tenancies from March 2020. So, landlords with concerns about their properties have a full 12 months to rectify potential issues.

The best way to ensure you are compliant as a landlord is to use a lettings agency full management service. Speak to one of our Camberley lettings experts today to see how our Fully Managed service could help give you that peace of mind.

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