Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (“the Homes Act”) applies to dwellings let wholly or mainly for human habitation (in both the social and private rented sectors)

Which type of tenancies does it apply to?

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (“the Homes Act”) applies to dwellings let wholly or mainly for human habitation (in both the social and private rented sectors) on:

  • Tenancies with a term of less than 7 years granted on or after 20 March 2019;
  • Tenancies renewed for a fixed term on or after 20 March 2019; and
  • All periodic tenancies from 20 March 2020.

What does the Act do?

Amends the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 (“LTA 1985”) by inserting a new Section 9A with an implied covenant that the dwelling:

  • Is fit for human habitation at the commencement of the tenancy; and
  • Will remain fit for human habitation for the duration of the tenancy.

Where the dwelling forms part of a building, the implied covenant also applies to common parts over which the landlord has an estate or interest, including, for example, communal hallways, lifts and stairwells.

What does “fit for human habitation” mean?

There is no definition. However, Section 10 of the LTA 1985 has been amended to provide:

In determining for the purposes of this Act whether a house or dwelling is unfit for human habitation, regard shall be had to its condition in respect of the following matters:

  • repair
  • stability
  • freedom from damp
  • internal arrangement
  • natural lighting
  • ventilation
  • water supply
  • drainage and sanitary conveniences
  • facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
  • in relation to a dwelling in England, any prescribed hazard;

The house or dwelling shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.

A ‘prescribed hazard’ currently means the list of 29 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (“HHSRS”) hazards (both category 1 and category 2 hazards). These are hazards that pose a risk to the health and safety of an occupier.

Void inspections, post inspections, communal inspections and record keeping will be increasingly important

Exemptions

A landlord will not be liable where:

  • The defect is caused by the tenant;
  • The defect is caused by fire, storm, flood or other inevitable accident;
  • The landlord can’t get necessary consents or planning permission; or
  • The tenant is not an individual.

Remedies

Remedies for tenants include:

  1. An order for specific performance of repair works; and / or
  2. A damages award in favour of the tenant.

Riverside’s Story

Riverside was founded in 1928 and currently manages 62,323 properties across 170+ Local Authorities.

Like most Registered Providers, Riverside is facing challenging times, with budget restrictions, ageing stock and a surge in housing disrepair claims over the last 3-4 years.

Part of Riverside’s response to this and to the introduction of the Homes Act has been to:

  • Develop an in-house specialist surveying team.
  • Improve internal communication and ‘soft’ education.
  • Undertake trend analysis and predictive modelling.
  • Design a mutual referral system with housing management & income maximisation teams.
  • Form a best practice group of RPs owning around ¼ million properties between them.

Comment

  • The pre-action protocol for housing disrepair claims has been amended to include Homes Act claims.
  • Allocation rules will be the same as for S.11 LTA 1985 claims.
  • Expert evidence won’t be essential but may assist.
  • Landlords ought to be reviewing their stock to assess weaknesses and risk areas.
  • Void inspections, post inspections, communal inspections and record keeping will be increasingly important.

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