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Fitness for Human Habitation – New Rights for Tenants

The Government is committed to improving standards for tenants in the private and social rented sectors. It is therefore supporting a Private Members’ Bill tabled by Karen Buck, a Labour MP: the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill. (visit the Parliament website here to track the Bill’s progress.)

New Duty for Landlords and Remedies for Tenants

The Bill obliges landlords to keep rental properties in good condition by implying into a tenancy agreement a covenant by the landlord to ensure that the property is fit for human habitation at the beginning, and for the duration of the tenancy.

If a landlord fails to keep a property in good condition, the tenant will have the right to sue the landlord for breach of contract on the ground that the property is unfit for human habitation.

What are Landlords’ Current Obligations?

Landlords already have a statutory duty to keep their properties fit for human habitation. Relevant factors include damp, ventilation, lighting, and facilities for food preparation. This duty is enforced by local authorities using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). An offence is committed if a landlord fails to comply with an enforcement notice.

However, there is currently no means for a tenant to take direct enforcement action against a landlord. They are reliant on the local authority doing so on their behalf.

How will Tenants Benefit from the New Law?

If the Bill is enacted (which is expected to happen) tenants will be able to take their landlord to court. The court may order the landlord to take action to make the property fit for human habitation and/or to pay compensation to the tenant.

How does this Affect You?

Are you a residential landlord, tenant, or agent? Do you welcome this legislation or are you worried about vexatious claims? As ever, we are keen to know your views.

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