What does it mean?
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 is a piece of legislation (law) that was added to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
This legislation ensures that properties are safe and healthy for humans to live in, when you move in, and for the whole time you are living there.
This law makes it easier for tenants to take action if their home is unfit for human habitation.
Who does it apply to?
The legislation now applies to both pre-existing and new tenancies. It applied to new tenancies from 20 March 2019 and to existing periodic tenancies from 20 March 2020.
It applies to privately rented properties, as well as council and housing association properties.
Some longer leases are not covered. ‘Licensees’ are also usually not covered: that includes people like lodgers, people living with their landlords, and people in temporary accommodation like hostels or B&B’s.
What does the law say?
The new legislation applies to both ‘let dwellings’ (the inside of your home) and the ‘common parts’ (the shared parts of your building like corridors, hallways, stairs and the building structure). This means that as well as issues affecting the interior of your flat, your landlord is also ‘liable’ (responsible) for things like leaks in the corridors.
The legislation says that the let dwelling and the common parts must be fit for habitation both at the time that the lease is created, and throughout its course.
What does fitness for human habitation mean?
There are very many issues that would be considered relevant under this law, if they create a risk to the health and wellbeing of the tenant or their family. These include:
- the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
- the building is unstable
- there’s a serious problem with damp
- the building has an unsafe layout
- there’s not enough natural light
- there’s not enough ventilation
- there is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
- there are problems with the drainage or the toilets
- it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
- damp and mould growth (including condensation)
- excess cold
- excess heat
- asbestos and manufactured metal fibres
- biocides (chemicals that treat mould)
- carbon monoxide
- radiation (from radon gas, which is airborne or in water)
- uncombusted fuel gas (leaks in gas appliances)
- volatile organic compounds (chemicals which are gases at room temperature)
- overcrowding (too many people in one flat) and lack of space
- possible entry by intruders (such as not having a lock on your front door)
- domestic hygiene, pests and refuse (including inadequate provision for disposal of waste water and household waste)
- food safety
- personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage
- water supply
- a danger of falls associated with bath or shower
- a danger of falls associated with stairs and steps
- a danger of falls on the level (a flat surface)
- a danger of falls between levels (from one level to another, for example falls out of windows)
- electrical hazards
- fire and fire safety (including the structure of the building and the common parts)
- hot surfaces and materials
- collision and entrapment (the danger of trapping parts of your body, like fingers, eg in a door or window, and the danger of being trapped in, say, a lift or room).
- risk of explosions
- physical strain associated with operating amenities (eg very heavy doors)
- structural collapse and parts falling off the block
How can tenants use this legislation?
- Tenants must report the problems to their landlord, ideally in writing.
- Maintain a good record of all your letters or emails.
- Keep photographs of defects or damaged belongings.
- Keep receipts when you spend money to fix a problem.
- Allow your landlord reasonable time to make the problem better.
- Ask for copies of any surveys/reports undertaken.
If the landlord does not solve the problem, you can seek legal advice: find your local Law Centre or Citizens Advice.
These advice services will have details of specialist housing solicitors in your area who may be able to take on a legal case on your behalf to make the landlord rectify the problem or possibly pay compensation.
Links to read
- Read the guide for tenants on Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
- Read about legal action being taken by residents under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018