Landlords Beware: Are you opening the door to liability?
With Brexit dominating the headlines, you may have thought other areas of law reforms were being put on the back burner. Well, this is certainly not the case for the rented sector of the housing market. Hannah Bates, solicitor at Shakespeare Martineau, looks at what landlords need to do to protect their investment in light of the introduction of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
What is it?
From 20 March 2019, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 will place an additional burden on landlords of both the private rented sector and social housing to make sure that their properties are fit for habitation at the beginning of and throughout a tenancy.
Previously, a tenant could only take action in respect of disrepair and that action had to be conducted through the local authority under the Housing Act 2004. A landlord is now responsible to a tenant for issues concerning the design and condition of a property even where the property is not in disrepair, but the design and condition presents a health and safety risk – for example, a lack of adequate heating equipment, low levels of natural light or insufficient ventilation.
The Act also extends mandatory licensing for houses in multiple occupation to improve the living conditions of tenants in shared homes and tightens up the rules regarding smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
What do I need to do?
All landlords and local authorities should be doing a ‘stock take’ of their investment properties and reviewing any issues raised by tenants. Issues that were previously outside of a landlord’s repairing obligation may now be caught under the act.
Landlords will be required to have a five yearly electrical installation safety inspection and all landlords should belong to a mandatory redress scheme.
When do I need to do it?
Any new tenancies entered in to after 20 March 2019 which are for a term of less than seven years will be subject to the act, this includes any tenancies which become new periodic tenancies after the fixed term has expired.
Any periodic tenancies which are already in place, will become subject to the Act after 12 months i.e. 20 March 2020.
What happens if I don’t act?
Local authorities will have the power to impose on offending agents and landlords, penalties including banning orders and fines.
It is suggested that rogue landlords and agents will be recorded on a national register to keep track of erring individuals and agencies, and landlords who fail to deal with such health and safety hazards could be made to refund rent to the tenants.
And It doesn’t end there…
The Tenant Fees Bill, currently making its way through parliament, will seek to save renters around £240 million per year by prohibiting landlords and letting agents from requiring certain payments to be made, including capping tenancy deposits.