Personal Law

Tenants can sue landlords for uninhabitable homes

Estimated read time: 2 mins

Carrie Tennick, March 04, 2020

From 20 March, tenants in England will be able to take their landlords to court for not providing accommodation that is “fit for human habitation”.

This is down to the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, which came into force on 20 March 2019.

However, it didn’t allow tenants to take action against landlords if they had signed a tenancy contract before 20 March 2019. From this month, that changes and the vast majority of tenants will now be able to sue their landlords for damages or force them to make the necessary repairs.

Who does the law apply to?

The law applies to both social and private renters, giving all tenants the chance to sue their landlords if their homes are not safe and free of health hazards.

It means that from 20 March 2020, anyone with a secure or assured tenancy, a statutory tenancy, or a private periodic tenancy can use the Homes Act – regardless of when their tenancy began. But anyone who is in the fixed term of a private tenancy that began before 20 March 2019 can only use the Act at the end of the fixed term.

The law does not cover tenants who have a licence to occupy rather than a tenancy agreement. This includes lodgers, some tenants of temporary accommodation and some property guardians.

Home hazards

According to housing charity Shelter, up to 3 million people live in homes that have Category 1 hazards. These hazards are serious enough to require action from landlords. When deciding on the severity of a hazard, environmental health workers consider the chance of harm, how serious it would be and whether there is an extra risk to children or elderly people.

Hazards include damp and mould, excess cold or heat, asbestos, biocides and carbon monoxide exposure, among others. In addition, crowding and space issues can be a threat to health and safety, as can problems with lighting and noise.

Shelter also recently revealed that one in four private tenants are being made to feel physically unwell over concerns about their housing, including those over poor conditions.

Supporting the introduction of the act, the organisation explained that social tenants will finally have a tool to force local authorities to carry out necessary repairs. Until the Homes Act, these tenants had no real way of obtaining redress over the poor conditions they have been forced to live in.

How will it help?

Tenants will no longer have to rely on local authorities to take action. They can apply directly to the court for an injunction to force a landlord to carry out repairs or for compensation.

They will also be able to provide their own evidence – such as photos of the problems they are dealing with – instead of an independent surveyor’s report.

If you are currently experiencing a landlord-tenant dispute, you could benefit from the services of a qualified and experienced property solicitor. First4Lawyers could help you find the right lawyer for you.

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