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The Homes (Fitness) Act for Tenants

Until recently as many as 25% of properties in the private rented sector were considered unfit to live in, according to government guidelines; an astounding number, revealing why the government introduced the Tenants and the Homes (Fitness) Act (2018).

Fitness for human habitation checklist, PropertyLoop

What Makes a House Unfit for Human Habitation UK? 

Simply put, a rental property is unfit for human habitation is the condition of the property presents a determent to the safety of the residents. Generally speaking, if the damage or state of disrepair to the property is causing issues with the tenant’s health, prevents them from using the property, or is a risk to their health and safety, the rental will be considered uninhabitable.  

In order to be let out to tenants and meet the established standard of habitation, landlords must ensure that their rental property is not only in a good state of repair and free from any structural detriments, but absent of any damp, mould and infestations. Further to this landlords must ensure that their tenants have a consistent supply of water and heating, with adequate bathroom and cooking facilities being in place. 

What Are a Tenant’s Rights if the Property Is Uninhabitable?

With the Homes (Fitness) Act being in place for over a year, renters are able to enjoy additional rights and regulatory protection thanks to the move by the UK government.  

Fitness for Human Habitation Act Changes in March 2020 

Changes to the 2018 Homes (Fitness) Act empowered tenants to take legal action again the owner of their rental property if it has been deemed unsafe to reside in. The updated regulations dictate that provided that the rental property presents a “serious and immediate risk to a person’s health and safety”, they will be able to pursue legal action, seeing them take their landlord to court.  

These changes mean that if a tenant is successful in their court case, landlords can be legally compelled to conduct any repairs, or remedial work, enforced through an injunction. It is also essential for landlords to note that whilst the fitness act initially only encompassed tenancies commencing from the 20th March 2019, as of 20th  March 2020 this applied to all existing rental agreements.  

Definition of uninhabitable property uk, PropertyLoop

How Do You Prove a House Is Uninhabitable? 

If the tenants decide to take action against their landlord for neglecting to carry out essential repairs, they will need to show the court the extent of the landlord’s failure to address ongoing risks to the occupant’s safety. This will typically comprise any emails or written contact with the landlord attempting to get them to conduct the necessary works, photographs documenting the extent of the damage to the rental, any reports provided by the environmental health department when inspecting the property detailing its poor condition, alongside any receipts for items that have been damaged thanks to the property’s disrepair. 

Is an Uninhabitable Rental Property Grounds for Withholding Rent?

Unfortunately, if the owner of the rental property is neglecting to carry out any essential repairs this is not enough justification for the occupants of the property to begin withholding their rental payments.  This is because after signing the tenancy agreement the occupants are legally obligated to ensure they periodically pay the landlord the expected sums of rent, with any failure to do so being treated as a breach of the tenancy agreement, allowing the landlord to move to repossess the rental property.  

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Can You Landlord Evict You?

In 2019 the housing charity Shelter revealed findings that showed of a survey of over 550 renters, 39% were unable to approach their landlord regarding repairs for fear they would be evicted.  

Providing that the tenant has already taken action against their landlord and had the property inspected by the local authority to confirm its poor state of repairs, seeing them be served either an improvement notice or an emergency remedial notice, owners will be prevented from issuing the occupants with a section 21 notice for six months.  

For tenants that are yet to have the rental property inspected by the local council’s environmental health department and have already been served a section 21 notice by their landlord, such an inspection would invalidate the notice and the repossession process.  

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