The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act is now in force. The media has focused on the fact that tenants can sue landlords for breaching the contract between both parties. However, it is essential that tenants are aware of the Act and what it means for them.

The Act applies to tenants who rent privately, from their local council or a housing association.

While most rental properties are maintained in a safe, secure, warm and dry condition, not all tenancies are. Some landlords offer dangerous and unhealthy properties, placing tenants at risk. While some observers will state that tenants shouldn’t accept the lease, it isn’t always this simple or straightforward. There are many occasions where tenants have found themselves but with no option to take any tenancy, even if the property was in dangerous condition.

Tenants have more power with the new Act

However, the introduction of the Act provides tenants with more control. A tenant can take a landlord to court if the rental property isn’t ‘fit for human habitation’. If the court finds the landlord guilty, they can order improvements at the property. Also, the court may decide the landlord has to pay compensation to the tenant. The level of compensation depends on:

  • The damage suffered by the tenant
  • The property condition
  • The length of time the damage occurred

If a tenant is suffering at home due to an issue with the property, they should inform the landlord. As an example, if the rental property is cold and there are problems with heating the home, the tenant’s health may suffer. The tenant should raise the problem with the landlord, and if the landlord fails to resolve the matter, the tenant can take further action.

Landlords aren’t always responsible for problems at home

Not all issues can be resolved by the landlord. If the tenant, or the tenant’s possessions, caused the problem, the landlord isn’t required to solve the problem. If the landlord has been unable to gain permission to carry out improvements, they aren’t legally obliged to carry out repair work. Also, if an ‘Act of God’ caused the problems, the landlord doesn’t have to carry out repairs.

When a tenant wishes to make a complaint under the Act, they should:

  1. Ensure the Homes Act covers their rental accommodation
  2. Identify the problem with the property
  3. Determine if the issue is so severe that it makes the property uninhabitable
  4. Consider if there is a reason improvements haven’t been undertaken
  5. Ensure they have raised the issue with a landlord
  6. Give the landlord reasonable time to fix the issue

If the landlord fails to fix the problem in a fair amount of time, the tenant should use the Act to take their landlord to Court.

If you are a tenant looking for guidance or assistance in dealing with an uninhabitable home, or you need advice on your tenant rights, please get in touch. At Koopers estate agents, we aim to provide all tenants with a reliable level of customer service, that ensures they make the most of their tenancy.