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Thursday 27 February 2020
We are steadily approaching the anniversary of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 coming into force. For the first 12 months it has only applied to new tenancies, but the major undertaking for registered providers of social housing is to ensure that by 20 March 2020 the rest of their housing stock is fit for human habitation.
Primarily the Act was sharply implemented to tackle some of the appalling conditions arising from less stringent regulation in the private sector, however, registered providers of social housing are inadvertently captured.
The main aim was to raise property standards and to make it easier for tenants to hold their landlord to account.
What are the fitness standards?
Section 10 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 has been amended to set out what needs to be considered in determining fitness standards. Various factors need to be considered including:
Additionally, the 29 hazards prescribed in the Housing Act 2004 and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 should to be considered, including:
Why does this create new risks for landlords?
Landlords are accustomed to managing the risk of claims arising from housing disrepair, including linked public liability claims, such as personal injury and damage to property. However, those claims rely on the claimant establishing that the issue complained of forms part of the landlord’s repairing covenant. The duty did not extend to ensuring the property was free from hazard.
To ensure that fitness standards are met and avoid exposure to compensation claims improvement works may be required, which is clearly an obligation beyond what landlords have previously been expected to do.
What has not changed is the need for the landlord to have notice of the issue and a reasonable amount of time to resolve it. The landlord can also not be fixed with liability for problems created by the tenant.
Minimising the risk
Matthew Hyam, Partner, BLM (email@example.com)