New habitation rights for tenants

Are your rental properties in good repair? Landlords are advised to check that their properties meet expected repair standards to avoid being sued by tenants from this March onwards.

A new law giving private and social tenants the right to force their landlords to keep their homes fit for habitation comes into force on 20 March 2019.

James Murray, Landlord and Tenant Law expert at Jones & Co Solicitors, said:

“The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act will give tenants the right to take landlords to court if the property falls below legal standards. They will be able to seek an injunction to carry out the work and claim damages.

“This will cover all tenancies less than seven years in length, in both the social and private rented sectors, and it includes the main dwelling and any parts of a building that the landlord has an interest in, such as a block of flats or house with multiple occupiers.

“Now is the time for landlords to make sure that properties meet all legal repair responsibilities, and also check for signs of damp caused by poor design and infestations, as these will also be covered by the act.”

James is also reminding landlords to take care at the start of any new tenancies, as a recent case has shown just how strictly the courts are viewing the requirements of Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

James said: “A judge has recently ruled that failure to issue a gas safety certificate before a tenancy begins will invalidate any subsequent Section 21 notice for repossession. According to the ruling, issuing a gas safety certificate after the tenancy has begun would not be enough.

“Landlords are now only be able to serve a Section 21 Notice if they correctly complied with the regulatory requirements under the Act before the tenancy began. This includes giving tenants an Energy Performance Certificate free of charge, a Gas Certificate and the current version of the ‘How to Rent: The Checklist for Renting in England’ booklet.

“As landlord and tenant law continues to evolve, landlords need to stay on top of these kinds of requirements. Mistakes can be difficult to rectify if a landlord unwittingly puts a foot wrong, so I would strongly advise everyone to seek professional legal advice, at the outset, to avoid problems further down the line.”