New Law Demands Better Living Standards for Tenants
New rules raising the bar for living standards in private rented homes in England came into force on 20 March 2019.
The good news is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 does not introduce any new obligations for landlords but is designed to ensure that they obey existing rules.
The law demands any privately rented home, including the common parts of a shared building, is fit for someone to live in throughout a tenancy, not just at the start. But the new law does empower tenants to take legal action against landlords who fail to maintain their homes.
The rules apply to all new tenancies, including renewals from 20 March 2019. Existing tenancies periodic before that date must comply from 20 March 2020.
Exceptions include problems caused by tenants or their possessions, events beyond a landlord’s control, such as fires or storms and if landlords cannot win consent to do work from planners or freeholders despite making a reasonable effort.
Online guidance outlines how landlords should comply with the act and the penalties for flouting the law.
“There are no new obligations for landlords under this act; the legislation requires landlords to ensure that they are meeting their existing responsibilities with regards to property standards and safety,” says the guidance.
“The government wants to support most good landlords who provide decent and well-maintained homes. Landlords who do not maintain safe properties prevent the operation of an effective and competitive rental market where all landlords operate on an equal footing.
“The government expects standards to improve as tenants will be empowered to take action against their landlord where they fail to adequately maintain their property. This will level the playing field for good landlords who already maintain homes fit for human habitation without serious hazards by ensuring that they are not undercut by landlords who knowingly and persistently flout their responsibilities.”
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In addition to any repair responsibilities explicitly set out in the tenancy agreement, common law and statute will imply terms to the agreement between landlord and tenant.