UNFIT – Fitness For Human Habitation Act 2018

by Property118.com News Team

10:26 AM, 31st December 2018
About 8 months ago

UNFIT – Fitness For Human Habitation Act 2018

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UNFIT – Fitness For Human Habitation Act 2018

Lets get straight to the point, as there’s only 5 pages to this Act. Click Here

This was a clever proposition by Karen Buck MP to put to Landlord Associations, in that how could ‘Professional’ landlords oppose a bill to stop rental properties that weren’t ‘ fit for Human Habitation.’

Short answer is they, and no landlord other than a Criminal one could.  However,  that is far, far from what the legislation actually lays down and it would appear, not to have been challenged or raised by ANYONE.

The first page gives some mechanics in that this Act places itself after Section 9 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985; to be known as Section 9A Fitness for Human Habitation of Dwellings in England.

FFHH 2018,  Sec 1 (3) (2) (a) (1)  [ the indexing is a dogs dinner ]  repeats the duty of the lessee to act in a tenant-like manner (of course they all do don’t they – no criminal or Rogue tenants, well not to be found such in court anyway) and  subject to this Act.

The second para 1 (3) (a) repeats similarly in that the lessor’s covenant to keep in repair, is not bound by lessee’s own breach.

Sec 1 (7) repeats the lessors rights to inspect the property with 24 hours notice (we all know that happens too)!

Various other superflous legalese until the last page, 5 where the briefest of mentions are made to –

What actually constitutes a property being ‘Unfit for Human Habitation’  which in my humble, non-legally qualified opinion, is nothing of the sort, and likey to be found in many properties, rental or privately owned!

The actual substance – effect of this 5 page piece of legislation, is to insert at paragraph 10 of the L and T Act 1985 ( innocuously ) after… ‘ facilities for the preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water ‘ ~  ” ANY PRESCRIBED HAZARD ”

FFHH defines Prescribed Hazard, as meaning prescribed by Section 2 of the Housing Act 2004 – which are, wait for it – of such seriousness as to warrant the title ‘Fitness for Human Habitation’  –  Category 1, OR 2  Hazards under HHSRS!

So what is a Cat 1 or 2 hazard – Our ‘friends at that nice alledged charitable organisation, ‘No Shelter’, define common hazards you can complain about as:

  • Damp and Mould growth
  • Excessive cold
  • Overcrowding
  • Risk of falling on stairs, floors or outside paths
  • A faulty gas boiler
  • Fire risks
  • Dangerous electrics

A google search for what is a Category 2 hazard is defined as ‘a hazard that is less serious or urgent’ (hardly something to make a house Unfit for Human habitation).

Damp and mould can be caused by tenants drying clothes and not ventilating a property, but proving it is another thing.

A factor of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System is that every one of the 29 potential hazards, has a heallth implication understandably, hence HHSRS title – hold onto that Health implication for later Legal Aid input below:

Legal Aid is only allowed for Re-possession of a rented home, injunctions relating to harassment in the home, anti-social behaviour cases in the County court (My company is dealing with quite an horrendous example at the moment where his legal aid solicitor has entered a not guilty plea, delaying the injunction past the Section 21 hearing date) and – DISREPAIR but only regarding removal or eradication of serious risk of harm to the health and safety of the occupiers. Claims for Damages are outside the scope of Legal Aid, save as a Counter claim in Possession proceedings!

Legal Action Journal, December 2018 heavily features Legal Aid (as it frequently does) Page 4 is about the All-Party Parliamentary group (APPG ) on Legal Aid chaired by a grinning, none other than Karen Buck MP who commented that a Labour government would review the Legal Aid means test and restore legal aid for ALL housing cases. Labour plans for Law centres to have a major new role (read legally force landlords to house tenants free, regardless).

Another article mentions Legal Aid having a special debate in parliament last month where chair of the justice committee, Bob Neill Conservative MP for Bromley said the pendulum had swung too far in reductions to legal aid. He expressed concerns about legal aid firms finacial viability (wipe the tears from your eyes) citing a Solicitors Regulation Authority survey to which HALF of 2000 firms questioned said they were at risk due to legal aid cuts. This does make you wonder what kind of tax-payers money is being spent on solicitors defending all sorts.

Back to HHSRS – Health implications: It is not rocket science to see how there will be a surge in HHSRS claims for disrepair, given that every one of the 29 hazards, has by definition H ‘Health’ SRS contained therein.

Is it a coincidence that a solicitor offered to write pro-bono, the FFHH legislation, so weakly defining a breach of fitness that seems to equal ‘Unfit for Habitation.’ Surely a patch of mould, spindle missing from stairs, loose stair carpet etc isn’t a House Unfit for Human Habitation!     With Legal aid funding to delay Possession proceedings and claim compensation from landlords to off-set or even Exceed rental default will surely be the result.

I find it inconceivable that Landlords organisations, other landlord websites and in fact virtually everyone has rounded to support the FFHH without scrutiny of its weak means to prevent very strongly stated aims that actually contradict.

It won’t be Criminal landlords that will suffer the consequence of renting out Unfit homes, it will be the landlords of criminal tenants who happen across a No-win No-fee solicitor.  They’re already out there advertising their services for deposit contraventions and it won’t be long before adverts appear for FFHH disrepair cases.

Simply put, the legislation means a Tenant can sue a landlord for any defect that constitutes a Cat 1 OR 2 hazard, and is highly likely to be Legal Aid funded to do so.  Likely a coincidence that the Pro-bono author of the Bill is a legal aid practitioner?

Chris

Courtesy of – Possession Friend.uk



Comments

Mike T

11:38 AM, 31st December 2018
About 8 months ago

Wow ! Thats a good start to the New Year.
Seriously, what can we as 'good' landlords do to make sure we don't suffer any problems with this ?
I would suggest that, as usual, we keep a regular eye on our properties. respond in writing to any issues raised by our tenants and get the remedial work carried out promptly. I guess the question most of us face is the 'damp, mould' issue. Various ways to tackle this. Advising use of ventilation, not drying clothes on radiators etc. etc. Also it seems that some councils have a booklet on the subject that is available (they give this to their own tenants). I'm sure there are many other suggestions . How about at regular check visits we get our tenants to sign to the effect that they are happy with the condition of the property.. ?
Happy New Year !

Monty Bodkin

13:51 PM, 31st December 2018
About 8 months ago

The obvious consequence of this will be landlords refusing to take on tenants that qualify for legal aid.
Means test here;
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/civil-legal-aid-means-testing

Mick Roberts

15:04 PM, 31st December 2018
About 8 months ago

I'll tell u what gets swept under the carpet as a Category 1 hazard.
A carpet tack loose on the stairs can be classed as Category 1 hazard. And the landlord is responsible for the stairs carpet. Even if the tenant has put new carpet in & it is HER HIS carpet, it goes down as statistic category 1 hazard for the Landlord & he is at fault.
Bumps the figures up for the councils & Anti-Landlord brigade.

Giles Peaker

18:52 PM, 31st December 2018
About 8 months ago

This article is quite the most glorious nonsense. It has completely made my day. Whoever Chris is, he really shouldn't be parading his inability to read legislation so publicly.

The test of fitness for habitation does indeed include having regard to whether any of the HHSRS hazard types exist in the dwelling for the current occupiers, but the question is not whether a category 1 or category 2 hazard exist, but whether (as the amended section 10 Landlord and Tenant Act will state):

"the house or dwelling shall be regarded as unfit for human habitation if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition."

Chris apparently didn't read that far.

By the way, one doesn't 'plead not guilty' to an injunction application, Chris, which makes me wonder how your company is handling that matter,

Legal aid will be available for fitness cases on exactly the same basis as disrepair - where there is a 'serious risk to health and safety', and only for the removal of the risk, not more minor issues or damage claims (except in counterclaims). So, not for minor hazards (which wouldn't be 'fitness' cases anyway).

And Chris, thanks for impugning my (and Karen's) motivations, but believe me, neither I, nor any housing lawyer who does legal aid, needs the extra work.

But I must thank Chris again for ending 2018 with a huge laugh for me.

Mark Shine

19:41 PM, 31st December 2018
About 8 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Giles Peaker at 31/12/2018 - 18:52
@nearlylegal: yes it’s possible that Chris has led to a few too many conclusions in this case.

But Giles, on another note... I take it u do realise quite how deeply manipulative & delusional some of your (@hpc) tweeting chums & influencers actually are, right?

Giles Peaker

21:08 PM, 31st December 2018
About 8 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mark Shine at 31/12/2018 - 19:41
I do not have hpc 'tweeting chums and influencers'. I take any views on their own merits.

Mark Shine

21:47 PM, 31st December 2018
About 8 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Giles Peaker at 31/12/2018 - 21:08
🤔 hmmm... ok bruv. HNY to all!

Luke P

1:35 AM, 1st January 2019
About 8 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Giles Peaker at 31/12/2018 - 18:52Giles, you really do come across as a total ar#####.
You’re a solicitor, at the top of your field, you wrote the legislation (as well as stand to benefit from it, potentially) so of course you understand it. Thoroughly. It is literally your job to. We on the other hand are LLs, not legal experts and do our very best to interpret the kind of legal bs your ilk bog everyone down with. You’re the equivalent of a playground bully laughing because we’re different. As if us LLs can’t even understand ‘basic’ legislation…lol, what idiots are we, right?
You would hate it, and I mean completely and utterly despise a world in which LLs got to write, say, the terms of solicitors’ professional indemnity insurance or, perhaps, the code of practice law firms must follow, filling it with barely decipherable bollocks that has no bearing on us, but potentially massive consequences for you and your colleagues, just because. Then top it all of with such a feeling of self-entitlement by making appearances on solicitor forums and having a chuckle at the plebs that are left dealing with the fallout.

Rennie

4:54 AM, 1st January 2019
About 8 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Monty Bodkin at 31/12/2018 - 13:51
Thank you Monty - noted

Recardo Knights

11:26 AM, 1st January 2019
About 8 months ago

A tenant lives in the property for 5 years with no sign of damp or condensation then leaves. Property decorated and empty for 3 months. A new tenant moves in in September and by November has damp and mold in 2 room so why is it the LL'SO fault.
Even with information on prevention some people just don't care it's not there property. Can't be bothered with heat and ventilation. Even seen a tumble dryer in a living room used as a drying laundry room not vented any where with tenants on inspection saying I got damp.

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