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 requirement is part of 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 is 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 legislation applies to all tenancies made after 20 March 2019.
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 ‘fit for human habitation’ requirements give greater power to tenants to take legal action against property owners who provide sub-standard accommodation.
To fulfil their duties good landlords and agents tend to regularly inspecting their properties and respond quickly when problems arise, but the legislation sends a clear message to others that they must adhere to best practice and proactively address defects and disrepair.