On 20 December 2018 the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 received Royal Assent. It covers both private and council housing though we will only comment on the main stream PRS implications.

The new law modifies rules already in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 sections 8-10. In simple terms sections 8 and 9 continue almost unchanged, but they now only apply to housing in Wales. These sections have little practical effect as they are limited to very low rents. New sections 9A to 9C are inserted and these provide the rules for housing in England, at any rent level.

Although the law received Royal Assent on 20 December, its provisions do not come into force for three months, i.e. on the 20 March 2019. Any new tenancy granted after this date will need to be granted with the property fit for human habitation, and the property must be kept fit for human habitation throughout the tenancy. If the tenancy was running periodic on the 20 March 2019 you will have till 20 March 2020 in which to comply.

Section 10 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 specifies a list of items which can create unfitness in a property. The new legislation amends this list to include the 29 Housing Health and Safety Rating System hazards for properties in England.

Whilst any responsible landlord and agent would expect to keep properties fit for human habitation, the tricky bit will be that this allows the tenant to take direct action against the landlord and the landlord will not know for certain if they are complaint till the court decides. Over time a body of cases will decide how this will be interpreted but until then care should be exercised to avoid giving the tenant another stick with which to beat the landlord.