Buy-to-let landlords must beware of the new fit for habitation law
The answer is when it is not fit for human habitation. The question that buy-to-let landlords must answer, then, is how is a property rated as not fit for human habitation? If you can’t answer this, you could be breaking the new law that comes into effect on 20th March 2019.
Is your property unfit for human habitation?
This is not an altogether easy question to answer. Of course, there are plenty of situations that you could say render a home as unfit to live in – no windows, floorboards, doors, large holes in the roof, to name a few – but there are other situations that may make a home unfit for human habitation, or may not.
Confused? Let us explain.
Fitness for human habitation depends on many factors, but these can be grouped under three headings:
- The property
- The tenant
- The environment
The first thing that is considered is the property itself. Factors that come under this heading include:
- Freedom from damp
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary conveniences
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of wastewater
- Prescribed hazards (see our article “Health and safety and buy-to-let properties”)
Your property will be deemed to be unfit for human habitation if “it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition”. You’ll need to take remedial action to correct the defect.
It matters who your tenant is. For example, if your tenant is old and infirm, and cannot climb stairs, an internal layout with bedrooms upstairs might be deemed unfit for habitation by your tenant.
If your property is heated downstairs but not upstairs, this may be a factor considered if your tenant has a young baby.
Let’s say your tenant is elderly and cannot climb stairs. Your property is on the fourth floor of an apartment block. No problem while the lift is in working order, but what if the lift fails and is out of action for a few days? Does this make the tenant’s home unfit for habitation?
The environment also makes a difference to the speed at which you must make a repair. If the central heating breaks down in mid-winter, the repair must be made faster than if it breaks down in mid-summer.
Are you ready for the new law on March 20th?
The new Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 comes into effect on 20th March 2019. You need to be ready for it. If you aren’t, your tenant could force you to make repairs or improvements, and you may have to pay compensation. And you really don’t want that to happen.
Yours in Effortless Property Management,