Did you know that a tenant can now take their landlord to court over damp and mould problems?
On March 20th 2019 the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation)
Act came into force.
This Act gives English tenants more power than they have
ever had, to potentially take their landlord to court if they have not dealt
with a mould, damp or ventilation problem in their home.
If you are a landlord, there are no new actions that you need to take, you are still under the same obligations that you have always been, which is that your lettings are fit for human habitation. The difference now, is that if you do not honor this agreement, by (for example) taking care of a report of mould growth from a tenant in an adequate length of time, your tenant now has the power to take you to court over the issue if it is considered hazardous to their health.
Why have things changed?
The reason this Act has come into play is to “level the playing field” (the governments own words), as landlords will no longer be able to undercut each other by offering cheaper lettings, but for a much lower quality of care and diligence. The vast majority of landlords across the UK are maintaining a high standard of living in their lettings, some however, are not and the government wants this to end.
Reports of landlords ignoring their tenants’ pleas to deal
with mould growth, have been all over the media in the past few years.
It has not been unusual to see tenants sending images similar
to these into newspapers to have their voices heard. So, to take away the “gamble”
of whether or not you would get a landlord that would provide you with a safe
and habitable home, the government has granted this new power to tenants. The
idea being that if a landlord knows they could face prosecution over a poorly
maintained letting, they are more likely to look after it adequately and take
any actions required to bring it up to a suitable standard.
So what do I need to do?
Well, If a landlord does not take action within what’s considered a reasonable time frame (a judge would decide what is considered reasonable or not), then the judge would state that the landlord must make changes to reduce or remove the hazard and/or damages to compensate for their living in a poorly maintained property. If the tenant wins a court case, the landlord may even be liable to cover their legal costs!
There are only a few caveats to this act, being that the
landlord is not obliged to make any improvements
to the letting if:
The problem is caused by tenant behaviour
The problem is caused by events like fires,
storms and floods which are completely beyond the landlord’s control (sometimes
called ‘acts of God’)
The problem is caused by the tenants’ own
The landlord hasn’t been able to get consent
e.g. planning permission, permission from freeholders etc. There must be
evidence of reasonable efforts to gain permission
The tenant is not an individual, e.g. local
authorities, national parks, housing associations, educational institutions
Unfortunately for landlords, it doesn’t quite end there, even if the tenant decides to take their landlord to court, the local authorities still have enforcement powers that can be utilized. So you could face the courts and the local authorities at the same time.
What about HMO’s?
If you are a landlord, and own a House in Multiple Occupation
(HMO) then you will be immediately liable to resolve any issues raised by the
occupants that could be considered hazardous to their house. If you need to
gain access to a property to carry out any of the repairs/changes, you will
need to give your tenants 24 hours written prior notice. You would also need to
make sure that any time you plan to make these changes would be within “reasonable”
hours. Reasonable would be ether not too late at night or too early in the
It doesn’t matter how a tenant pays their rent or which type
of dwelling they are living in; they are still granted the same rights.
So these are just a few examples of what the government has
laid out for this act, you can find much more information on the government
website by clicking HERE
If you are concerned about damp, mould or a lack of ventilation in either your own lettings, or a property you are renting, please give our experienced advisers a call on 020 8463 9696.