New legislation has come into force in an aim to improve rented property standards and safety. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force in March 2019. So, what does this mean for Landlords?
Whilst there are no new obligations, the act reinforces Landlord's existing responsibilities to provide Tenants with a safe property. The act gives Tenants an additional form of redress against Landlords for unsafe standards, examples of which include:
- the property has been neglected and is in a bad condition;
- the building is unstable or has an unsafe layout;
- serious damp problems;
- there's not enough natural light / ventilation;
- problems with the hot and cold water, drainage or lavatories;
- difficulty to prepare and cook food or wash up;
- any of the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005.
Once a Tenant notifies a Landlord of an issue, failure to comply could result in a Landlord being ordered to pay compensation to their Tenant and/or the Landlord being ordered to carry out the necessary works to improve their property. The local authority can also use its enforcement powers to require a Landlord to rectify any issues without the need for a court order.
Jane Moir, Commercial Property Solicitor, stressed that; "Landlords must take steps to ensure they are protected from bogus claims under this Act. I recommend the following key tips:
- Ensure you have an agreed Schedule of Condition as a record of the state of the property at the beginning of the tenancy, preferably signed by the Tenants and containing photos as well as written descriptions.
- Regular inspections of the property during the tenancy will enable you to keep an ongoing record, including a series of dated photographs, which keeps a trail of evidence.
- In the event the Tenant is causing the property to deteriorate, use written requests to the Tenant not just verbal explaining how the Tenant is causing the problem (disproving any claim that it is due to Landlord neglect).
- Keep copies of your correspondence and retain any evidence you have that your letters have been received by the Tenant.
Whilst it is not always possible to avoid a claim, these steps can help ensure you are able to defend yourself. Evidence is key!"
Should you have any queries, we can help. Call us on 01603 620508. If you are a Landlord defending a claim from a Tenant, our Litigation & Dispute Resolution team will also be able to assist you.