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The Homes Act 2018 (Fitness for Human Habitation): Understanding the Tenant Rights

Sophia Harris

September 28, 2023

Fitness for Human Habitation

If you reside in a rented house or apartment, being well-informed about your rights under the recently enacted Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 is crucial. This guide is intended for individuals who fall into one of the following categories:

  • Private renters
  • Housing association tenants
  • Local council tenants


Please note that if you are in temporary accommodation, a lodger, or a property guardian, the information provided in this guide may not apply to your situation.
This guide will refer to this legislation as “the Homes Act 2018 (Fitness for Human Habitation).”

The Homes Act 2018 (Fitness for Human Habitation): What You Need to Know?

As of March 20, 2019, a new law was enacted to ensure that all rented houses and apartments are maintained to a standard suitable for human habitation. This standard encompasses safety, health, and freedom from any factors that could seriously harm occupants. It is primarily an extension of the Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

While most landlords diligently maintain their properties to ensure safety, security, and comfort, some neglect their responsibilities. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 was introduced to protect tenants and hold irresponsible landlords accountable. 

This law empowers tenants to take legal action if their rented properties do not meet the “fit for human habitation” criteria. The court may compel landlords to carry out necessary repairs or address health and safety issues and, in some cases, award compensation to tenants.

Legal Implications for Tenants

What Are Your Landlord's Obligations?

Your landlord is legally obligated to ensure that your residence is “fit for human habitation.” This means it must be safe, healthy, and free from any hazards that could endanger your well-being or your household. For instance, if your rented property is excessively cold and you cannot heat it adequately, this can adversely affect your health.

As a private tenant, you can access more information regarding your landlord’s duties and responsibilities by consulting the “How to Rent” guide. When you initially moved in, your landlord or letting agent should have provided this guide.

Read: housing disrepair claims process

Who Does the Homes Act 2018(Fitness for Human Habitation) Apply To?

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 extends its protection to tenants living in both social and privately rented houses and apartments. The type of housing (e.g., bungalow, house, or apartment) is irrelevant, as are the details of your rent payment method or your status regarding Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. What truly matters is your agreement with your landlord or letting agent.

If you signed your tenancy agreement contract on or after March 20, 2019, you can immediately invoke the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, regardless of whether you moved into a new property. However, if you signed your contract before this date, you must wait until March 20, 2020, to utilise the Act (unless you sign a new tenancy agreement or your tenancy transitions into a monthly rolling contract). Nevertheless, if you have concerns about the conditions of your home, feel free to contact your local council. They have the authority to take action on your behalf at no cost to you.

Who Can't Use the Homes Act 2018 (Fitness for Human Habitation)?

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 exclusively pertains to tenants in England. It does not cover individuals with ‘licences to occupy’ instead of traditional tenancy agreements. This category may include lodgers (living with their landlords), some individuals in temporary accommodation, and sure property guardians. For assistance distinguishing between different types of tenancy agreements, consider consulting resources like Shelter or Citizens’ Advice.
From March 20, 2019 
Starting from March 20, 2019, anyone who signs a new tenancy agreement for their current residence or a new one, as well as those whose tenancies become periodic tenancies on or after this date, can avail themselves of the protections offered by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. This includes tenants with tenancies of less than seven years.
From March 20, 2020
After March 20, 2020, all secure or assured tenancies, statutory and private periodic tenancies, are covered by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, regardless of the original tenancy commencement date. Tenants with fixed-term private tenancies that began before March 20, 2019, must wait until the end of their fixed term to use the Act.

Are There Any Exceptions?

While your landlord is responsible for addressing a wide range of issues in your rented home, there are certain exceptions to their responsibilities following the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018:

  • Problems Caused by Tenant Behavior: If you or another tenant engage in irresponsible or illegal behaviour that leads to problems in the property, the landlord may not be obligated to fix these issues.
  • Events Beyond Landlord’s Control: Events such as fires, storms, and floods, which are entirely beyond the landlord’s control (sometimes referred to as ‘acts of God’), may not be covered by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. In such cases, you can still reach out to your local council for assistance if your landlord fails to take necessary actions.
  • Repairing Previous Tenants’ Possessions or Furniture: The landlord is only responsible for repairing or replacing possessions or furniture that belonged to previous tenants if these items were included in the inventory at the beginning of your tenancy.
  • Permission from Others: If the landlord cannot obtain permission from certain individuals or entities, you may not be able to use the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. This situation could arise when the landlord needs permission from, for example, the owners of a building with multiple flats or the local council for planning permission. You are entitled to request evidence of the landlord’s efforts to obtain such permissions, and you can still contact your local council for assistance.

 

Also Read: The Homes Act 2018 – Understanding the Landlord Obligations

What Do I Need to Do?

Step 1: Verify Coverage under the Homes Act 2018 (Fitness for Human Habitation)

Determine whether your rental agreement falls under the scope of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. You can do this by referring to the information in this guide’s “About the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018” section or by reviewing the agreement you signed with your landlord.

If you are still trying to locate your agreement, seek assistance from various sources, including your local Citizens Advice, Shelter, local council, a solicitor, or a tenants’ rights group. The Generation Rent website lists local tenants’ rights groups covering different regions.

If you believe you may be eligible to use the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Identify the Problem

Before diving into the process of seeking housing disrepair compensation, it’s crucial to understand what you can claim for. Determine the specific issue you are facing. Is it one of the following?

  • The building has been neglected and is in poor condition.
  • The building is structurally unstable.
  • There is a severe issue with dampness.
  • The layout of the property is unsafe.
  • There is insufficient natural light.
  • Inadequate ventilation.
  • Problems with the supply of hot and cold water.
  • Issues with drainage or lavatories.
  • Difficulty in preparing and cooking food or washing dishes.


Alternatively, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 also covers if the
disrepair issues involves one of the following 29 items:

  • Dampness and mould growth.
  • Excessive cold.
  • Excessive heat.
  • Asbestos and manufactured metal fibres.
  • Biocides (chemicals used to treat mould).
  • Carbon monoxide.
  • Lead.
  • Radiation (from airborne or waterborne radon gas).
  • Uncombusted fuel gas (gas appliance leaks).
  • Volatile organic compounds (gases at room temperature).
  • Crowding and space.
  • Entry by intruders (e.g., lack of a front door lock).
  • Lighting.
  • Domestic hygiene, pests, and refuse (including inadequate waste disposal provisions).
  • Noise.
  • Food safety.
  • Personal hygiene, sanitation, and drainage.
  • Water supply.
  • Falls associated with baths or showers.
  • Falls related to stairs and steps.
  • Falls on level surfaces (e.g., slipping on a flat surface).
  • Falls between levels (e.g., falling from one level to another, such as out of windows).
  • Electrical hazards.
  • Fire and fire safety.
  • Hot surfaces and materials.
  • Collisions and entrapment.
  • Explosions.
  • Physical strain associated with operating amenities (e.g., heavy doors).
  • Structural collapse and falling elements.

If your issue corresponds to one of the abovementioned problems, proceed to Step 3. If your problem does not fall within these categories, you may not be eligible to use the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. In such cases, seek assistance from your local Citizens Advice, Shelter, local council, a tenants’ rights group, or a solicitor for problems in your rented accommodation.

 

Council and housing association tenants can file complaints if they encounter issues with their property. While these organisations cannot directly utilise the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 on your behalf, they can provide valuable advice and guidance.

Step 3: Assess the Severity of the Problem

Before proceeding, evaluate whether the problem in your house or flat is so severe that it renders the place unfit for habitation following the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. Remember that if you take the matter to court, the judge will inquire about the severity of the issue and your landlord will be asked to provide explanations if they dispute the claim.

If you believe your home is in an extremely hazardous condition, it is advisable also to notify your local council. They possess legal powers that can expedite necessary repairs at no cost. Additionally, they may assist in protecting you from potential eviction due to your complaint. Council and housing association tenants can follow their housing provider’s complaints process and, if necessary, escalate the matter to the Housing Ombudsman.

If you are confident that your home is ‘unfit,’ proceed to Step 4.

Step 4: Examine Potential Landlord Obstacles

Consider whether there are any reasons why your landlord may not be obligated to address the issue. These factors include the following:
The Right of Reasonable Access
In emergencies, landlords are allowed to enter the property without notice. However, when repairing the property to make it fit for habitation under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, your landlord should generally provide at least 24 hours’ notice, and visits should occur during ‘reasonable’ hours. Reasonableness usually implies avoiding late nights and early mornings, but it may also consider factors such as caring responsibilities.  Suppose your landlord has not given reasonable notice or intends to conduct repairs during unreasonable hours. In that case, they cannot claim to have made reasonable efforts to render the house or flat fit for habitation. Maintain records of all correspondence with your landlord, including letters, phone calls, emails, texts, and other contact forms. This documentation will support your assertion that you were not given reasonable notice.
Potential Causes of the Problem
Determine whether the problem has arisen due to any of the following:
  • You or another tenant acting irresponsibly or illegally.
  • Faults with your possessions.
  • Events such as fires, storms, and floods that are beyond the landlord’s control (sometimes referred to as ‘acts of God’).
Unable to Obtain Permission
Alternatively, assess whether the landlord or leaseholder needs permission from relevant individuals or entities, such as building owners or planning permission for necessary work. You have the right to request evidence demonstrating your landlord’s application for permission. If any of these factors apply, you may not be eligible to use the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. If you are uncertain, consider seeking advice from sources like Citizens’ Advice, Shelter, your local council, or a tenants’ rights group. Otherwise, proceed to Step 5.

Step 5: Notify Your Landlord

If you have not already informed your landlord, it is imperative to do so promptly. Your landlord must address problems in your home, but they must be aware of the issue before taking action. Ideally, please make your request for repairs in writing, which can include email or text messages, provided you retain them as evidence. Allow your landlord a reasonable amount of time to rectify the problem following the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

If you have notified your landlord or cannot contact them but remain concerned about the issue, proceed to Step 6. You can also inform your local council if you are unsure how to reach your landlord.

Note: Check your tenancy agreement for contact details. If your landlord has not provided you with a tenancy agreement, it may be more challenging for them to initiate eviction proceedings against you. For further information, consult your local council.

Step 6: Assess Timely Resolution

Your landlord has a legal duty to address problems in your home within a reasonable timeframe. The duration of this period depends on the nature and severity of the issue. If you reside in social housing, the Housing Ombudsman may hold your landlord accountable for the time taken to address or rectify problems in your home.

If you believe your landlord has taken an unreasonable amount of time to address a problem that renders the house or flat unfit for habitation, proceed to Step 7.

Step 7: Utilise the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

If you have reached this step and deem it necessary, consider using the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and initiating legal action against your landlord regarding the conditions in your home.

  1. Please write to your landlord again, requesting them to resolve the problem. It is advisable to communicate in writing, either via email or letter. If you proceed to court, you must demonstrate that you made efforts to resolve the issue with your landlord first. If you have a letting agent, send the letter or email to them.
  2. Your letter or email should specify the necessary corrections when you reported the issue and if you had to report it more than once. Additionally, document any problems you have encountered as a result of the condition of your home, such as worsening of physical or mental health conditions.
  3. Retain a copy of the letter and any responses you receive. Your landlord may offer to make repairs or reach an agreement, which can be a less cumbersome alternative to court proceedings.
  4. Refer to the Small Claims Track, Fast Track, and Multi-Track guidance to initiate the court process. For smaller claims, you will need to complete and submit form N1. Follow the provided link to access the form, along with guidance to assist you in filling it out. Ensure that you provide as much detail as possible. For more significant claims, more extensive documentation may be required.
  5. If you are concerned about the adequacy of your evidence and are not a council tenant, consider engaging your local council’s environmental health department to inspect your home and provide a report. Find the contact details for your local council here.
  6. Assemble your evidence before heading to court. This may include:
    1. Copies of letters or emails you sent to your landlord, letting agent, and local council regarding repairs.
    2. Photographs depicting the problems.
    3. A doctor’s note outlining any mental or physical health issues exacerbated or caused by your home being ‘unfit for human habitation.’
    4. Receipts for items you had to replace, such as wallpaper damaged by mould or carpets affected by water damage from a faulty pipe.
    5. A copy of your tenancy agreement or proof of rent payment to your landlord.
    6. Reports from experts you have engaged to assess the problem. Their testimony can bolster your case. Examples of experts include electricians or the environmental health department of your local council. If your local council’s environmental health department or estates team has already conducted an inspection, they may have furnished a report.
  7. Submit this evidence with your form, and keep copies for your records. If you require assistance completing the form, consider seeking guidance from Citizens Advice or a tenants’ rights group.
  8. Dispatch three copies of the form to your local county court. Find the address of court or tribunal here. You must pay a fee when submitting your court form, which will be refunded if you prevail. If you are uncertain about the applicable fee, consider contacting Citizens Advice, Shelter, your local council, or a tenants’ rights group.
  9. After sending the form, the court will provide you with paperwork and a hearing date. Send a copy of the paperwork to your landlord or letting agent. 
  10. Please ensure all communication is in the English language.

Step 8: The Court Hearing

At this stage, you will be required to attend the court hearing. You can bring a friend, colleague, or relative with you for support, and if they take notes during the proceedings, it can help you recall important points later. During the hearing, the court will review the evidence you and your landlord submitted. If the judge determines that an unfit property following the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 has been rented out, they may issue the following orders:
  1. Improvement Orders: The judge may require the landlord to make necessary improvements to the property to ensure it meets the standards for human habitation.
  2. Compensation: The judge can also order the landlord to compensate you. There is no fixed limit on the amount of compensation that may be awarded; the court will assess this based on various factors, including the severity of the problem, the mental or physical health issues it has caused, and the duration of the problem.
If you do not succeed in court, and you are not a council tenant, you still have the option to contact your local council for assistance with the issues in your home.  Council and housing association tenants can also file complaints if they encounter problems with their property. In such cases, you can escalate the matter to the Housing Ombudsman for resolution. Furthermore, the court may order your landlord to cover some or all of your legal costs.
What If My Landlord Attempts to Evict Me?
If you are concerned that your landlord might try to evict you in response to your complaint or legal action, commonly referred to as ‘retaliatory eviction,’ it is crucial to contact your local council as soon as possible and explain the situation. If your council decides to take enforcement action against your landlord to compel them to do necessary repairs or improvements, it may become more difficult for your landlord to evict you. You are not obligated to wait for your local council to take action. If you believe a serious health and safety issue exists in your rented house or flat, you can simultaneously inform your council while pursuing legal action against your landlord. Contact organisations like Citizens Advice, Shelter, your local council, or a tenants’ rights group for guidance and support if eviction concerns you. Also Read: No Win No Fee Housing Disrepair Claims in 2023
What Will Happen to My Landlord If I Win in Court?
If the court determines that your landlord has failed to provide you with a habitable home, they can take one or both of the following actions following the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018:
  1. Mandatory Repairs: The court can order your landlord to do the necessary repairs and improvements to make your home fit for habitation.
  2. Compensation: The court may also require your landlord to compensate you. The court will determine the amount of compensation, considering factors such as the duration of unfitness, the severity of the problem, and the harm it has caused you.
What Will Happen If I Lose?
You may be liable for some costs if you do not succeed in your court case. If you have concerns about this, it is advisable to consult with a solicitor, your local council, Shelter, or Citizens Advice for further guidance. Ensure that all communication is conducted in the English language.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 became effective on March 20 2019. If you signed your tenancy agreement before this date, you would need to wait until March 20 2020, before you can seek remedies through the courts under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 unless you have transitioned to a replacement tenancy or a rolling contract after March 20 2019.

However, there are other avenues for obtaining assistance. You can reach out to your local council or Citizens Advice. If you rent through a letting agent, you may have the option to file a complaint through a Redress Scheme.

If you reside in a social rented property, your landlord must carry out repairs not only on your dwelling but also on the common areas of the building. If your social landlord fails to address or rectify the problem following your complaint, and you have followed the necessary steps, you can escalate the issue to the Housing Ombudsman.

the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 mandates that:

  • Landlords must ensure that any dwelling they rent out is free from hazards that pose a risk of harm to the health or safety of the tenant or another occupant. This requirement applies from the beginning of the tenancy and throughout its duration.
  • In cases where a landlord fails to meet this requirement, the tenant has the right to take legal action in the courts, citing a breach of contract due to the property being unfit for human habitation. The remedies available to the tenant may include a court order compelling the landlord to address or remove the hazard and compensation for living in a property deemed unfit for human habitation.

This legislation provides tenants with an alternative means of seeking redress, in addition to the option of having their council prosecute on their behalf. The obligations of landlords to provide habitable housing remain unchanged, as do the responsibilities of tenants to act responsibly and appropriately.

No. Non-council tenants can still contact their local council instead of pursuing legal action through the courts. If a tenant wishes to take their landlord to court, they may consider seeking advice from Citizens Advice or their local council on the best course of action or for assistance in interpreting the legislation. Please ensure that all communication is conducted in the English language.

If you have reviewed the step-by-step guide and determined that you cannot utilise the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 to address issues with your rented home, you can still take several actions to improve your living conditions.

the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 mandates that:

  • Landlords must ensure that any dwelling they rent out is free from hazards that pose a risk of harm to the health or safety of the tenant or another occupant. This requirement applies from the beginning of the tenancy and throughout its duration.
  • In cases where a landlord fails to meet this requirement, the tenant has the right to take legal action in the courts, citing a breach of contract due to the property being unfit for human habitation. The remedies available to the tenant may include a court order compelling the landlord to address or remove the hazard and compensation for living in a property deemed unfit for human habitation.

This legislation provides tenants with an alternative means of seeking redress, in addition to the option of having their council prosecute on their behalf. The obligations of landlords to provide habitable housing remain unchanged, as do the responsibilities of tenants to act responsibly and appropriately.

Making a Complaint as a Private Tenant

If you are a private tenant and believe that your home is not being maintained in a suitable condition and your landlord has failed to perform necessary repairs after being informed about them, you can contact your local council. It is advisable for private tenants whose landlords neglect their repairing or management responsibilities to report this to their local council. You can find the contact details for your local council online. For more comprehensive assistance with the problems you are encountering, you can refer to the “How to Rent” guide. This resource helps tenants understand their rights and responsibilities and offers a checklist along with detailed information for each stage of the rental process, including:
  • What to consider before renting
  • Living in a rented home
  • End-of-tenancy procedures
  • What to do in case of issues or disputes
Housing association tenants can also contact their local council or the Regulator of Social Housing for guidance. Please ensure that all communication is conducted in the English language.

Shelter Organisation

Shelter provides valuable advice, particularly if you are concerned about becoming homeless. You can find contact information for Shelter on their website.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice offers free, confidential, and independent advice to help individuals address various problems, from financial issues to workplace concerns, housing challenges, and consumer rights. You can access their advice pages and locate your local branch online.

Tenants’ Rights Organisations

Many tenant rights organisations operate in various regions of the country. You can search for a tenants’ rights organisation online, inquire at your local library, or visit a community centre for information on local resources.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 is a crucial legislation designed to ensure that rented properties in England are safe, healthy, and fit for human habitation. This guide has provided a comprehensive overview of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, offering step-by-step instructions on how tenants can use this legislation to address issues in their rented homes. From determining eligibility to taking legal action in court, tenants can seek redress when their living conditions are substandard.

However, we acknowledge that not all tenants may be eligible for the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. In such cases, ample resources are still available to help improve living conditions. Reporting concerns to your local council, seeking guidance from organisations like Shelter and Citizens Advice, and connecting with tenants’ rights groups are viable options to address housing issues.

Ultimately, whether through the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 or alternative channels, every tenant deserves the right to live in a safe and habitable home. By understanding their rights and taking necessary action, tenants can contribute to better living conditions and hold landlords accountable for their responsibilities.

If you’re facing housing disrepair issues and need professional assistance, don’t wait. Contact MyDisrepairClaims now to get the support and guidance you need to improve your living conditions. Your safety and well-being matter, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.

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