Just before the Christmas break, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 (“the New Act”) finished its way through Parliament and received Royal Assent.
It officially went on the statute books on 20 December 2018 and will come into force three months from that date – 20 March 2019. The New Act only applies to properties in England.
The New Act amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (LTA 85) to insert new provisions relating to fitness for habitation. The LTA 85 already contains the provisions relevant to landlords and tenants about the duty to keep the property in repair; the New Act takes this further.
New Implied Rights
In addition to the existing implied rights that already exist in the LTA 85, there will be new implied terms that:
a) The property is fit for human habitation at the time the tenancy is granted, and
b) Will remain fit for human habitation during the term of the tenancy.
These implied terms do not apply where the ‘unfitness’ is due to a tenant’s failure to behave in a tenant-like manner or from the tenant’s own breach of tenancy terms.
The implied rights cannot be contracted out of in the terms of the tenancy. They will also only apply to a tenancy started after the 21 March 2019 and, for existing tenancies, where it is unfit for human habitation 12 months after that date. This effectively gives landlords with existing tenancies a year to bring the property up to standard.
What is 'Unfit for Human Habitation'?
When considering this question, the court would look at the condition of the property in relation to the following:
Freedom from damp
Drainage and sanitary conveniences
Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water
Any prescribed hazard
It will be regarded as ‘unfit’ if where it is defective in relation to one of the categories above it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.
This bulletin is an overview of the New Act and more detailed advice should be sought if landlords are concerned about the impact of this on their existing properties.