Everything you need to know about the Fitness for Habitation Act
At the end of 2018, the Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Act was passed into law after cross-party and Government backing. This Act, for the first time, defines the phrase 'fit for human habitation'. In the context of lettings and property, the word 'unfit' covers issues that are potentially damaging and hazardous to the health of the occupiers such as fire safety, heating, ventilation, condensation. This new Act will give tenants more protection against unsavoury and careless landlords and agents. The Act will amend the current Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Building Act 1984 and will come into force in March 2019. This Act will affect new tenancies and renewals of fixed-term tenancies in England from this date.
From the start until the end of the tenancy, all social and private sector landlords (or agents acting on the behalf of the landlord) will be required to make sure that a property and communal areas are safe for the duration. The clause to cover common areas of the building comes after the tragedy of London’s Grenfell Tower.
The Act will mean that landlords can be legally forced to take action in order to resolve any unsafe issues in the property if it isn’t up to the standard of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This will also affect lettings agents who fully manage properties which do not meet the new standards. Lettings agents and landlords will not be liable where any ‘unfitness’ in the property is caused by the tenants.
Once a property has been confirmed as ‘fit for human habitation’ and there is nothing that is potentially dangerous to the health of people living there, a photograph based inventory check will be done before the tenant moves in. If a repair is required, the issue must be reported by the tenant, ideally in writing and with photos that are time and date stamped. Once the issue has been safely resolved, evidence of being ‘fit for human habitation’ will be confirmed. This will happen every time there is a repair needed on the property. There will also be a photograph based mid-term inspection and at the end of the tenancy, another photograph based inventory will take place.
Stephen Reade, Network Lettings Manager for Harrison Murray and The Nottingham says; “Our tenants are provided with an online reporting system allowing any issues to be reported 24 hours a day. There is an option to upload photographs which give a clear trail should any problems arise.”