The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force in England on 20th March 2019 to make sure that rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’, which means that they are safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm.
Often referred to as ‘the Homes Act’, the act applies to the social and private rented sectors and makes it clear that landlords must ensure that their property, including any common parts of the building, is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout.
To achieve that, landlords will need to make sure that their property is free of hazards which are so serious that the dwelling is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition
If rented houses and flats are not ‘fit for human habitation’, tenants can take their landlords to court. The court can make the landlord carry out repairs or put right health and safety problems. The court can also make the landlord pay compensation to the tenant.
There are no new obligations for landlords under this Act; the legislation requires landlords to ensure that they are meeting their existing responsibilities with regards to property standards and safety.
The courts will decide whether a property is fit for human habitation by considering the matters set out in section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. These are whether:
It is for the courts to decide whether the dwelling is fit for human habitation. A Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) assessment is not necessary. However, a landlord might choose to carry out an assessment if they want to establish whether a serious health and safety hazard is present. Landlords of social housing may also have regard to the Decent Homes Standard.
The landlord is considered responsible from when he or she is made aware of the hazard by the tenant. The landlord will then have a reasonable amount of time to deal with this hazard, which will depend on the circumstances.
*Please note: The above summary is based on FireAngel’s interpretation of Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, always refer to the standard for specific guidance.