Fitness for Human Habitation Act

by David Asker

16:20 PM, 4th April 2019
About 2 years ago

Fitness for Human Habitation Act

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Fitness for Human Habitation Act

A fifth of the UK population now lives in rental accommodation. The Fitness for Human Habitation Act came into force just last week. This new Act is designed to ensure all rental accommodation meets certain criteria.

The rental property must be free of defects and this includes all private rentals, housing association rentals and any social tenants including council houses.

The prescribed potential hazards are listed in Section 10 include the following:

  • the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
  • the building is unstable
  • there’s a serious problem with damp
  • it 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 lavatories
  • it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
  • or any of the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005

The purpose of the Act is to improve the standard of rental property and to give tenants a right to take action that will require landlords to repair or rectify any problem areas.

At present the legislation applies only to new tenancies, tenants who have rented property prior to 20th
March 2019 will need to wait a year before their tenancy is covered by the new Act giving landlords 12 months to deal with any issues.

Exceptions to the rules include

  • Acts of god, such as fires, floods and storms
  • Any issues which are caused by the tenant or their possessions

How long do landlords have to rectify any issues?

Landlords will be given reasonable timescales, but they are considered responsible at the point they are made aware of an issue by the tenant.

Penalties

If the courts decide that a property is not fit for human habitation, they have the authority to issue a compulsory improvement notice as well as offering compensation to the tenant.

The full guide for landlords can be viewed here.

Contact The Sheriffs Office


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Comments

Chris @ Possession Friend

23:40 PM, 4th April 2019
About A year ago

I have singularly been in dialogue with landlord - property blogs, originally the sole and first voice to speak up about concerns for abuse of this legislation.

This has not gone down too well with the author, Mr Giles Peaker. I have been blunt about the massive campaign in existence by All legal aid solicitors about the general state of reduced funding.

In particular, I have pointed out that the author is a legal aid solicitor and that FFHH cases will by the nature of their potential for injury to Health ( HHSRS comparators, more of that shortly ) attract a Legal Aid solicitor.

My concern has been that tenants who find themselves subject to Possession proceedings, will soon 'cotton-on' to a potential avenue for what I call, " Retaliatory Defence "

A complaint about mold - mildew, portrayed as signs of damp could be brought to a willing legal aid solicitor ( not many will turn down a case, and they'll get paid, win or loose )

Meanwhile any pending Possession case is likely to be adjourned pending the outcome of a civil claim.

Mr Peaker disputes this is likely or a course the courts will take.

I would like to think and hope he is right but have serious concerns he may not be.

Look at the existing position where a Tenant is being taken to court for Possession following rent arrears. In such cases where there is a deposit contravention, the courts have shown a repeated willingness to off-set the civil award for failure to protect a deposit, against the rent outstanding.

Given this, I see no reason why a court wouldn't adjourn a Possession hearing for rent arrears to allow an award against the landlords to be offset, or at least allow the tenant to use to pay of the rent arrears. Whether the court directly off-set and adjust or award against the Landlord waits to be seen.

I do accept that there are a minority of properties that justify measures, but argue that Local Authorities already have the powers to deal with this ( if not the resources )

Outsourcing what should be the prosecution of unfit properties to civil law is in my view an abrogation of enforcement responsibility, facilitated by this legislation. Cheaper for MHCLG to enact Civil law than fund Local Authorities appropriately.

Mr Smith points out that FFHH is not synonymous with HHSRS, I beg to differ. Page 5 of the legislation defines a 'Prescribed hazard as 'prescribed by Section 2 of the Housing Act 2004' ( which is a Category 1, or ' 2 ' hazard. )

True a court has to consider whether a hazard under HHSRS is such that it convinces the court the property is unfit for habitation. Despite the legislation excepting acts or omission by the lessee ( tenant in plain English, although legislators aren't capable of writing like that. )

A potential scenario -

Tenant dries clothes inside, doesn't open windows and wants to pay as little to heat the property as possible. ( I'm sure this is ringing bells with landlords ! ) Mold mildew and damp patches, black spores are evident, but doesn't necessarily bother the tenant at the time - likely knowing their responsible.

Tenant falls behind with rent, Landlord serves Sec 8 Notice, tenant indicates a defect. Is it not beyond the realm of any conception that a tenant photographs the black mold spores, goes to their GP, complains of a cough, shows photo and gets sick certificate. ( How hard - easy, is it to get a sick note ! )

Tenant likely not working and on DSS as RLA have campaigned against many landlords wishes and interests to choose to support an organisation like Shelter who campaigns for the Rights of a landlord to choose, to be removed from advertisements, wasting many peoples time.

Tenant takes Sec 8 Notice and PCOL to Legal Aid solicitor. Civil claim commenced. The legislation authors believe the courts will treat the FFHH separately, I and many landlords from painful experience are not convinced ( especially not given the example of Deposit contravention above )

Whilst its true that Possession Friend have been the first to raise concerns, we are certainly not the only ones now !

Rentokil in Landlord Today 20/3/19 state 5.8 million renters claim to experience damp and condensation issues and " 2 Million ! " believe they have developed an illness as a result of their living conditions. according to research by Rentokil Care.

17% tenants aware of FFHH, but Rentokil rightly state tenants must take responsibility for their living environment.

20% do Not use trickle vents.

38% tenants admit to wearing more clothes instead of turning on heating to save money.

30% tenants regularly dry clothes on radiators with 11% admitting to doing this 'all the time'.

12% dry clothes in the bathroom, an area where there's already a lot of moisture.

So, when a tenants is confronted with possession proceeding for rent arrears, - Who ( apart fro the legislators ) think the tenants are going to own up to this, or what most Landlords from experience believe, that they will deny causing the damp ? ( answers on a postcard )

If Anthony Gold on behalf of the RLA believe its only Landlords that raising this issue, I'd point to Landlord Today, 22/3/19 where Lauren Bryan Chartered Legal Executive of the Dispute resolution dept of Thursfield Solicitors in Birmingham comments, .... the act should prompt landlords to check their properties comply to .. " avoid unnecessary legal action. " But if a landlord is served with proceedings or the tenant pleads this as a " DEFENCE to POSSESSION PROCEEDINGS " [ Helloooo ] they should immediately seek legal advice.

Bryan added, ' While the law will have some positive outcomes by persuading ( some, my emphasis ) landlords to carry out urgent repairs, it is also just another barrier put before decent landlords and another set of rules to comply with. ' Landlords should check their properties and seek legal advice if they feel tenants are trying to take undue advantage of the new laws. ' ( something the legislators deny is possible or likely. - Its not like they haven't got any experience in court with tenants ! )

A landlord isn't able to win from this legislation, even if the proceedings are successfully defended, as the landlord will have to pay their own solicitors fees, whilst the tenants will be paid by the Tax-payer, a larger proportion of that being landlords since Sec 24 Finance Act !

Solicitors acting for either Landlord or Tenant are going to get paid either way, which brings me back to who wrote this legislation, pro-bono, strangely enough - oh, it was a legal aid solicitor. ( who accuses me of raising this for 'my own ends' ! )

Chris

Possession Friend.uk

terry sullivan

10:08 AM, 5th April 2019
About A year ago

rla and nla do not seem to be on our side?

Luke P

15:57 PM, 5th April 2019
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by terry sullivan at 05/04/2019 - 10:08
They don't seem to be on our side, because they're not on our side. My recent P118 article points out the inclusion of inflammatory and emotive language 'slipping through the net' onto S.21 Notices without so much as a peep out of the NLA/RLA...

https://www.property118.com/emotive-meaningless-words-no-fault-referring-s-21-notices/


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