Fitness for Human Habitation Bill

2018 is likely to be a difficult year for lettings professionals in terms of keeping up with the legislation that is due to be finalised and passed.

As well as new energy efficiency standards, GDPR, there is a Fitness for Human Habitation Bill, which defines the idea of a property being safe for people to live in and the landlord's responsibility to make it so.

Property safe for people to live in

The Bill has had its second reading in Parliament, bringing it a step closer to being passed and becoming law. While its name tells you its aim, Michelle Hayter, a Partner in our Dispute Resolution Team, has created a guide that summarises the Bill as it currently stands. It is not expected to change significantly before it is passed.

The Bill, for the first time, defines the phrase “fit for human habitation”. In this context, the term “unfit” will now cover issues like fire safety, inadequate heating, poor ventilation, condensation and mould - issues that could be hazardous to the health of tenants and occupiers.

Therefore, the phrase “fit for human habitation” will apply to properties that are non-hazardous to the health of those living in them.

Private and social tenants

The Bill also says that, should private or social tenants be exposed to unsafe areas in the property they are renting, they will be able to legally force their landlords to take remedial action to resolve the issues.

What does it mean for property professionals?

Tenants will possess the right to take legal action against their landlord in the courts on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation.

The legislation could also affect lettings agents who fully manage properties which do not meet the new standards, in the sense that the responsibility of ensuring that the property is “fit for human habitation” could well be passed on to them depending on the specific terms of their agreement with the landlord.

Michelle comments "The effectiveness of tenants being able to bring legal action against landlords remains to be seen - you might assume that a lot of individual tenants will not have the legal knowledge to bring action against neglectful landlords, it is possible that large social landlords could be vulnerable to class actions if their tenants band together. It is in the best interests of lettings professionals and property managers, to ensure that their landlords’ properties meet the new definition of being fit for human habitation. If the property managers themselves are not liable, there could still be a knock-on effect for them regarding their portfolios and revenue streams if the landlord decides to sell the property or has to make significant improvements to it".

Given the government’s enthusiastic support of the Bill, any amendments are likely to be minor. It is also relatively short, which means there is less to debate. Landlords and property managers should therefore expect the Bill to be given Royal Assent before the end of the year.

Our Dispute Resolution Team are happy to discuss any issues that this raises for you. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Michelle or a member of the team, will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.