Housing Disrepair & Private Tenants

In March 2019, the Homes (Fitness For Human Habitation) Act 2018 came into force, which means that tenants who rent privately can now sue their landlords if their homes are in a state of disrepair.

This is very important news for anyone who rents privately, as prior to this law there was no legal obligation on landlords to put or keep the property in a condition ‘fit for human habitation’.

The housing charity Shelter describes the scenario in which a tenant can ask for compensation as when the landlord “fails to carry out repairs within a reasonable time once you’ve reported them. You may also be entitled to compensation if your home is unfit to live in because of poor conditions.” It’s no secret that housing disrepair is a real problem in the UK for many tenants, whether they are social housing tenants, private tenants or university students. That’s why this new law could help raise living standards in the rental sector, if tenants who are suffering take action and pursue a claim.

Dean Carpenter from KLS Law is experienced in this area of law, so we asked him a few questions about the Act.

  • Why has the law changed in relation to Housing Disrepair?

The Bill for the Homes (Fitness For Human Habitation) Act 2018 was put forward in September 2017, received royal assent in December 2018 and came into force on the 20th March 2019. Previous to the act there was no legal obligation on landlords to put or keep the property in a condition ‘fit for habitation’. There was a duty to repair the structure of the property, and keep in repair, heating, gas, water and electricity installations, but that only applied where something was broken or damaged. It did not cover things like fire safety, inadequate heating, or poor ventilation causing condensation and mould growth.  Karen Buck, a Labour MP for Westminster North decided to fight for change on the basis that “Every tenant deserves a home that’s fit for Human Habitation” and from this thought process, today we have the Homes (Fitness For Human Habitation) Act 2018.

  • How do you think this will impact the housing sector as a whole?

I believe that the entire social and private rental sector will be impacted by this statute. No longer will Landlords of any guise be able to simply “turn a blind eye”. No longer can tenants be ignored purely because the Landlord either doesn’t want to spend the money or hasn’t time to look into the matter. For far too long tenants have been put to the back of the list, purely because their landlords deemed as not urgent mould festering in a cupboard, or the front door not locking properly. These are now actionable defects which the law is supporting.

As a result of this fantastic Act, I truly believe that tenants will get more justice and landlords will be held accountable for the houses they rent.

  • Who has the right to pursue a claim?

All tenants of residential/domestic properties will be able to raise matters of this nature. I would strongly suggest that if you believe you have a claim, or are simply unsure, contact us immediately to discuss and we will assist you.

  • Why is it important to pursue a claim if you are a victim of Housing Disrepair?

It’s a two-fold response to this question. Firstly, regardless of whether you are employed or receive benefits, your right to a home that is to fit to live is the same. In today’s financial market, every penny a household receives counts. Therefore, if we as tenants are paying for a service with our much needed money, we want to make sure that we are getting what we pay for, that is: a home fit for human habitation.

You would not go food shopping, buy a mouldy apple and simply accept it, pay for it and take it home. So why would you pay for a home that has mould in it? Neither situations are acceptable.

The second element to this question, is if you don’t sort it out, who will? What happens to the next family who move into that house? Will they have to struggle to pay the same rate of rent or possibly increased rent for the same problem? By getting these issues sorted out now, you are ensuring that no further cases like this can happen in that property and you are helping future families.

  • How much can you expect to claim for Housing Disrepair?

Every tenant who embarks on a claim is going to want to know one thing: “How much will I get?”

The answer is case specific. There may be cases where the tenant does not want compensation, simply a “Specific Performance Order” which orders the landlord to undertake the repairs within a certain time frame. Other issues that may arise are stress and upset caused by the defect and having to take this course of action. On all these cases the brackets are very wide so we will be able to give you a more accurate advice regarding the value of the claim when we get more details from you. Ultimately, everyone has the right to a safe and secure home, and this new legislation aims to uphold that.

Is your landlord failing to make essential repairs on your home? Have you been living in a home in disrepair for a long period of time? Contact our team now for a free, no obligation consultation on what your rights are.