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Shelter: New Law Could See Over 1m Landlords Sued for Poor Housing Conditions

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act is designed to protect vulnerable tenants. It comes into effect on 20th March 2019. The new law gives tenants the power to take landlords to court if their rental property is not fit for human habitation, for example, if it is cold or mouldy. Find out here what new rules are coming in to force.

Who is Protected by the New Law?

The law will provide a measure of protection for all tenants in the private rental sector. It also covers tenants living in social housing, so councils will have to act if one of their tenants reports a problem.

Housing charity and campaign group Shelter says there are around 2.5 million people in the private rental sector who live in unsatisfactory conditions. This means approximately one million landlords could end up in court if they don’t carry out appropriate repairs.

“Crucially, the bill will help private and social renter’s voices to be heard, by giving them the right to take their landlord to court over unfit and unsafe conditions in their home. The Bill could help to prevent another tragedy like the Grenfell tower fire. This was the starkest reminder of the dangers of unsafe accommodation.”

If a landlord fails to rectify problems, the court has the power to force them to carry out repairs.

“The Act will help enforce best practice for landlords and agents, act as a deterrent for bad behaviour, and provide a legal lever for renters to pull if their landlord isn’t complying,” says Shelter.

What Problems Does the New Law Cover?

The law covers a host of problems such as damp, mildew and mould. It also covers insect and rodent infestations, such as mice, rats, cockroaches, ants, and bed bugs.

If problems are caused by design defects, such as poor ventilation in a bathroom, the landlord is responsible for fixing the problem. So, if a bathroom extractor fan is faulty or inadequate, and it leads to a mould problem, this is on the landlord to rectify the problem.

Landlords Will Now Have to Carry Out Repairs Quickly

If there is a significant threat to life, landlords must act within 24 hours. When a tenant notifies the landlord of a problem that “materially affects their comfort or convenience”, the landlord will have three days to fix it, for example, no heating, hot water, sewerage problems, or a broken window.

If the problem is less urgent, such as a broken fence panel, landlords will have up to 28 days to sort the issue.

The law is very clear: if your tenant notifies you of a problem, don’t procrastinate over who is responsible. Get it sorted.

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