Solicitor's Advice - Landlord & Tenant law - What is the Fitness for Habitation bill?

November 2017

Karen Buck MP is bringing a bill before parliament titled “Homes (Fitness for Habitation and Liability for housing standards) Bill.  This is a follow on from her unsuccessful attempt with the “Fitness for Habitation Bill” in 2015 which was filibustered by Conservative MPs (many of whom were also landlords).

At present, there is no general right that accommodation let on a tenancy need be fit for habitation.   The exceptions where the right does occur are very limited under the current law.

The only practical exception is where furnished premises are let for immediate occupation and at the time of letting they were unfit for human habitation.   A subsequent lapse into unfitness would not be a breach,

The other exception is where premises are let on a low rent  The applicable rents were last set in 1957 and are so low that it is hard to think of a circumstance where they apply  (eg £80.00 per year in Inner London).

These rights for low rent properties are contained in S8 Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.   The Bill proposes to incorporate the rights in S8 as an implied term in all new residential tenancies for a period of less than 7 years.   The implied terms proposed are that the dwelling is fit for human habitation at the time of letting and that the landlord with keep it so throughout the tenancy.

There are protections for the landlord including that if the unfitness is caused by the tenants then the landlord will not be responsible.

If this bill becomes law then issues such as inadequate ventilation, condensation,  dangerous unhygienic internal arrangements and fire safety risks will be breaches of the tenancy agreement that the tenant can take action over to get fixed and to obtain compensation.

The way this will help tenants is that if their premises are unhealthy or dangerous without any actual disrepair they will be able to take action against their landlord for breach of the tenancy just as they can now for structural disrepair.

If passed this bIll will provide important extra protection for tenants and their families and may have a positive effect on improving housing standards generally.