Like most of my generation, I’m a renter because I still can’t afford to buy a house. But I got extremely lucky as my landlady is an absolute dear. If anything needs repairing or maintenance she’s quick to get it sorted, and she does everything by the book.
Unfortunately, not every renter out there is in the same fortunate position as I am. And even worse is there’s a fair number of renters who’s landlords are absolute slumlords. Fortunately for tenants across England and Wales, they will now have the power to take their landlords to court over poor living conditions. This is because the law now requires homeowners who rent out their properties to keep their homes “fit for human habitation”. The Homes [Fitness for Human Habitation] Act finally came into law on the 20th of March, and is directed at homes that are kept in a state of disrepair.
Shelter, a housing charity, says that there could be up to a million homes that aren’t fit for human habitation. Some of the points that will be considered by courts are whether or not the building has mold, in there’s not enough natural light or ventilation, hot or cold water problems, and pest infestations. This means that if these standards are not bet, renters will have the right to take their landlord to court – which means that the landlords will then be either legally forced to fix the issue or offer proper compensation.
The tenants will have to cover their own legals fees unless entitled to legal aid, but overall the government feels it will be an incentive for landlords to improve living conditions for tenants, now that they retain the power to sue.
There are some stipulations though, as the new rules currently only apply to tenancies under seven years, new secure, assured and introductory tenancies, and tenancies that have been renewed for a fixed term. From the 20th of March 2020, rolling tenancies will also be included. The government has already said it expects to see standards improve as tenants “will be empowered to take action against their landlord” wherever there is failure to maintain property.
“The Fitness for Human Habitation Act will give social and private renters the power they need to tackle bad conditions, which is why so many campaigned hard for it to be passed as law,” said Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter. “With millions of people and families now living in rented homes, we desperately need better protections in place for renters when things go wrong.”
“This new Act will help to enforce best practice for landlords and letting agents, act as a deterrent against bad behaviour, and provide a legal lever for renters to pull if their landlord isn’t complying,” she added. “To make sure everyone renter has access to justice, the Government must also ensure legal aid is available. Legal aid means that everyone who needs to, can afford to challenge the poor or dangerous conditions that wreak havoc on people’s lives.”
Hopefully this will indeed help tenant conditions improve because everyone deserves a decent home to come back to at the end of the day that’s not infested by mold or rats.