Is your property fit for human habitation?
It is a well-known fact within the residential tenancy sector that landlords are required by law to ensure that the property they are renting out is fit for human habitation and whilst we would like to believe that all landlords take their legal obligations seriously, this is not always the case.
Having recognised the on-going issues as to whether a rented residential property is fit for human habitation the Government have introduced the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 which came into effect on 20th March 2019.
So what does this mean for landlords and tenants? Well, under the old legislation if a tenant believed that the property they were renting was suffering from damage resulting in it not being fit for habitation the first thing they would need to do would be to notify their landlord of this in order to give their landlord a reasonable opportunity to rectify it. If the landlord then ignored the tenant's request the tenant would then be able to approach Environmental Health via the Local Authority which would often result in an inspection taking place and a notice being served on the landlord.
However, under the new legislation tenants now have an additional option available to them. The tenant still approach Environmental Health in the same way but the tenant can now also potentially bring a civil claim against the landlord for an unlimited amount of compensation, amongst other remedies that are available. The tenant can exercise both of these options at the same time in order to see which approach achieves the desired outcome quicker.
Landlords - it is not all doom and gloom. Top tips for landlords to avoid such proceedings being brought against them include:
- Creating a photographic schedule of condition at the outset of the tenancy that is signed by both parties.
- Ensuring the tenancy agreement allows for regular inspections upon reasonable notice, and carrying out those regular inspections.
- Being approachable to ensure that your tenants make you aware of any issues as soon as they arise so that you can take the appropriate steps.
- Acting quickly when dealing with any faults or issues at the property as reported by the tenant or as a result of an inspection.
In summary, whilst the new legislation is designed to provide further protection and remedies to tenants, as long as landlords are ensuring that the property is well maintained then it is hoped that landlord and tenant can live in harmony.