Renters Can Now Sue Landlords Over Mould And Damp In Their Homes
Previously, private renters have had to rely on local authorities to investigate poor living conditions, despite the fact social renters had no means to hold their local council accountable, Shelter says.
The house charity has warned there's currently 1 million rented homes with hazards posing serious danger to the health and safety of their tenants.
Now, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act will amend the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 to change all of that.
From today, landlords must make sure their properties meet a certain standard at the beginning and throughout the tenancy.
These new rules will apply to tenancies of fewer than seven years, new secure, assured and introductory tenancies and tenancies renewed for a fixed term.
They will also apply to all periodic tenancies (rolling monthly tenancies or week to week), however this doesn't come in until 20th March 2020.
Housing charity Shelter says the new rules will hold landlords responsible for issues like damp caused by design defects, for example from a lack of ventilation rather than disrepair, as well as being responsible for infestations of rodents, insects and bedbugs.
The rules mean landlords will be forced to rectify the problems to avoid breaching the act. However, if they fail to do so, renters will have the right to take their landlords to court.
If the case is ruled in the renter's favour, the judge will then grant an injunction to force the landlord to carry out whatever needs to be done to resolve the issues - or award compensation to the renter.
The only downside is - unless renters are eligible for free legal aid - they will have to cover their own legal costs, however if they win, they could receive from of their legal costs back.
The Government hopes the new rules will improve standards as tenants "will be empowered to take action against their landlord" when they don't maintain their property to an adequate standard.
Chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, said: "The Fitness for Human Habitation Act will give social and private renters the power they need to tackle bad conditions, which is why so many campaigned hard for it to be passed as law.
"With millions of people and families now living in rented homes, we desperately need better protections in place for renters when things go wrong.
"This new Act will help to enforce best practice for landlords and letting agents, act as a deterrent against bad behaviour, and provide a legal lever for renters to pull if their landlord isn't complying.
"To make sure everyone renter has access to justice, the Government must also ensure legal aid is available. Legal aid means that everyone who needs to, can afford to challenge the poor or dangerous conditions that wreak havoc on people's lives."
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