New Act set to help tackle the scourge of unfit rental properties

 

Tenants living in sub-standard rented accommodation will shortly have more powers to tackle irresponsible landlords with a new Act of Parliament coming into force.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 achieved Royal Assent just before Christmas. This means that as of 20 March all social and private landlords or agents acting for them will have to ensure that a property is fit for living in from the start and throughout a tenancy.

Meeting basic standards

A home must meet the standards of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) – if it does not, tenants now have the right to take legal action. A number of issues such as damp, water supply, drainage, ventilation, lighting and cooking facilities are included in the list of problems that tenants have to right to act upon.

A judge will make a fact-based decision on whether a home is considered unfit, and that will be the case if it fails on just one of the problems mentioned. The Bill, tabled Labour’s Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North, received strong backing from within the industry including the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which represents and supports landlords.

“Everyone deserves a safe and decent place to live, regardless of whether you own your home or rent it,” said Minister for Housing Helen Wheeler.

“That’s why government has introduced a range of measures to help ensure that people who are renting have good quality and well-maintained properties to call home. This new law is a further step to ensure that tenants have the decent homes they deserve,” she adds.

“The Act comes into force three months after it has been passed, that is on 20 March 2019. It will only apply to tenancies made after that date so any tenancy entered into before 20 March (ie. signed by both parties and executed) will not be covered by the legislation initially even if the actual occupation begins after 20 March,” say the RLA.

Other measures aimed at improving the system for both landlords and tenants are on the horizon.

  • The government is considering Housing Courts that would be solely dedicated to resolving disputes, rather than having to use county, magistrate or other courts.
  • Over 50 councils have been allocated money from a £2.4 million fund to improve their processes of tackling rogue landlords, such as better use of digital technology and improved sharing of data with external agencies, such as the police.

The new Act and these other measures should help weed out the minority of poor landlords and help improve standards with benefits for tenants and the industry.

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New Act set to help tackle the scourge of unfit rental properties

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