New Law Allows Tenants To Sue Landlords Over Cold And Mouldy Homes
Most of us have been there: a home in a great location, for a fraction less than would financially cripple you. But when you've been there for a few months you realise that the single-glazed windows aren't as welcome in winter as they were in July and the fresh-paint smell when you moved in was covering up something staler-smelling and green beneath.
But soon tenants in England and Wales will be able to take legal action and take their landlords to court over common problems such as cold and damp in their homes with the the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act.
Up to now private renters have to rely on stretched-to-the-limit local authorities to investigate poor living conditions, while, according to the housing charity, Shelter, social tenants have no means of holding their council 'landlords' to account if something isn't right.
But these problems aren't just superficial. The housing charity warns almost a million rented homes are plagued with hazards posing a serious health and safety risk.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, which amends the former Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, should change this when it takes effect on Wednesday, 20th March 2018 and will require landlords to ensure that their properties reach certain quality benchmarks at the beginning of and throughout a tenancy.
The new rules will see several issues fall under the landlord's responsibilities for the first time, including damp caused by design defects (like a lack of ventilation, rather than disrepair) and infestations of rodents, insects, and bed bugs.
The rules will force landlords to carry out repairs or rectify problems within a specified timeframe. How much time they have depends on the severity of the problem.
If there is a "significant risk of danger to the health, safety or security of a tenant" then the issue must be resolved within 24 hours according to advice from landlord associations.
They have up to three working days to resolve problems that "materially affect the comfort or convenience" of tenants.
Less urgent repairs can be resolved within 28 days.
According to Citizens Advice research around 1.85million tenant households have had disrepair in the past four years that their landlord was responsible for and that wasn't fixed within these timescales.
And if landlords fail to get things done within the timeframe, renters who have a tenancy of less than seven years will be given the right to take them to court.
The court can then grant an order forcing the the landlord to either do the work or compensate their tenant.
"The Fitness for Human Habitation Act will give all types of renters the power they need to tackle bad conditions - which is why Shelter campaigned hard for it to be passed as law," explains Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter.
"With more and more families renting privately, we desperately need more protections and security for renters.
"The Act will help enforce best practice for landlords and agents, act as a deterrent for bad behaviour, and provide a legal lever for renters to pull if their landlord isn't complying."
Heather Wheeler, Minister for housing and homelessness, added: "This new law is a further step to ensure that tenants have the decent homes they deserve."
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