Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
This act was introduced on the 20 March 2019 to make sure rented houses and flats are ‘fit for human habitation’. All landlords in England (including letting agencies) must maintain their properties to ensure they meet the minimum standard for human habitation. This means that each property is safe, healthy, and free from things that could cause serious harm.
The Act applies to tenants who live in any type of social or privately rented houses and flats, regardless of how rent is paid or if you are on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. It’s more about the agreement between the tenant and the landlord.
If rented houses and flats are not ‘fit for human habitation’, tenants can take their landlord to court. The court can make the landlord carry out repairs or put right any health and safety problems. They may also make the landlord pay compensation to the tenant.
Who is responsible?
If you think that a repair is needed in your property, check the agreement with the landlord or letting agent to ascertain whether it is the responsibility of the landlord or the tenant to carry out that repair. This will usually be set out in in the tenancy agreement or lease.
If you are a tenant, check which repairs the landlord is responsible for in the tenancy agreement itself. For most tenancy agreements, the law (section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) also implies an obligation on landlords to (in summary) keep in repair the structure and exterior of the property and keep in repair and proper working order the installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation, heating, and heating water.
Many landlords publish a Residents or Repairs Handbook which sets out who is responsible for different repairs. These are usually published on the landlord’s website and will often include information on how to report a repair and the timescales within which you can expect your landlord to respond.
If you are a long leaseholder (i.e. you own a flat either in a block or converted house) or a shared ownership leaseholder, check the terms of your lease to see which repairs your landlord is responsible for. This is usually limited to the structure and exterior of the building which is not part of your flat and any communal areas.
If a repair is needed in your home or communal areas, then you should report this to the landlord’s repair or maintenance department. Your landlord should also operate an emergency repair line that enables you to report emergency repairs out of hours. It is a good idea to follow up a phone call in writing or by email so you have a record of reporting the repair.
Your landlord will usually only be responsible for carrying out a repair once the matter has been brought to its attention.
You should allow your landlord a reasonable amount of time to carry out the repair before contacting it again. Your landlord should have published target times for repairs depending on the urgency, and this will give you an idea of how long the repair may take to complete.
You will need to allow your landlord reasonable access to the property so it can assess what repairs are needed and to carry out the work. There is an implied term in most tenancy agreements for the tenant to give access to the landlord to check the condition if the landlord gives at least 24 hours’ notice.
Whether a landlord is responsible for treating pest infestations, such as mice, will depend on factors such as where the infestation is coming from or the cause of the infestation. Policies on treating a pest infestation also vary from landlord to landlord and it is sometimes difficult to know who is responsible for carrying out treatment works.
In the first instance, you should report the matter to your landlord and check the information on your landlord’s website. You can get further guidance from your local authority’s environmental health department, which also has certain obligations to deal with pests.
If you need an adaptation to your home due to a disability, you may have certain rights under the law. In the first instance you should report the matter to your landlord to establish what its policy is on funding and carrying out adaptations. If you are a housing association tenant, you can also contact your local authority which will have certain obligations to aid people with disabilities for a range of adaptations to their homes.
If you are not satisfied with how your landlord has responded to your reports of repairs, you should make a formal complaint to your landlord about this.