From 20 March all landlords and letting agents in England must make sure their rental properties are fit for human habitation at the beginning and throughout the tenancy.

Landlords and agents who fail to meet the specified standards could find themselves the subject of court action and liable for damages.

The changes are the result of new legislation that comes into force – the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act – which aims to make landlords more accountable for the condition of the properties that they rent out.

When determining whether a home is fit for human habitation consideration will be given to the state of repair, stability, freedom from damp, natural lighting, ventilation, water supply, drainage and sanitary conveniences, facilities for storing, preparing and cooking food and for the disposal of water.

To be regarded as unfit, a judge must be convinced that the property is ‘so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition’.

The new legislation will apply to all tenancies made after 20 March 2019 and is expected to be rolled out to all periodic tenancies from 20 March 2020.

Traditionally property repairs have been one of the main sources of conflict between landlords and tenants. Situations that could be resolved can easily escalate if not properly handled.

The new legislation gives greater power to tenants to take legal action against property owners who provide sub-standard accommodation.

Good landlords and agents who already fulfil their duties, regularly inspecting their properties and responding quickly when problems arise, will notice little or no difference.

But the legislation sends out a clear message to others that they must adhere to best practice and proactively address defects and disrepair.

If you would like advice about a landlord-tenant dispute, please call 01782 205000 or email jessica.hancock@beswicks.com