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Fitness for Human Habitation – developments


What was the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Building Standards) Bill went through Committee stage in the House of Commons today, 20 June. I’m delighted to say that it went smoothly, with the only amendments proposed and passed being those brought by Karen Buck MP herself.

The Bill as amended – now titled the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill – can be found here.

The amendments made were both technical and substantive.

The technical amendments

i) changed the short and long titles to more closely reflect the Bill as passed at second reading.

ii) Changed section numbering, because Wales. The existing sections 8 to 10 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 apply to England and Wales. The Bill applies to England only, as a) housing is devolved and b) Wales will be introducing something very similar under regulations to Renting Homes (Wales) Act, when they are made and the Act in force. However, in the meantime, we can’t do anything to sections 8 to 10 that would affect Wales (even though the sections are of no practical use). So what was to be an amended section 8 L&TA 1985 is now a new section 9A and other similar re numberings wording tweaks). The result may lack a certain elegance, but the important thing is that it works.

There are three substantive amends.

i) additional sub section to make clear that the covenant under the Act (when it is one) applies to any periodic or secure tenancy arising after the commencement date at the end of a fixed term tenancy granted before the commencement date. This would include a secure tenancy after an introductory tenancy, an assured tenancy after a fixed term ‘starter’ tenancy, or a statutory periodic tenancy arising at the end of a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy.

ii) Amendment to the permission of superior landlord exemption so that where a landlord requires the consent of a third party such as a neighbour, superior landlord, mortgage company or public authority in order to carry out the works required to remedy unfitness, the landlord would not be liable if they had made reasonable efforts to obtain that consent but it was not given.

iii) and lastly, the important ‘common parts’ clause. This parallels section 11(1A) in extending the implied covenant to put and keep in a condition fit for habitation to all common parts of the building in which the landlord has an estate or interest (so the building structure, exterior, internal common parts and common facilities). The covenant doesn’t just extend to the dwelling, but to the building of which the dwelling forms part. Given the commonality of wording, we’d expect the case law on section 11(1A) to be relevant to the operation of this clause.

The text of the Committee is not available yet, but the video is here (or below). Next step is report, then the Lords. We’re hopeful (assuming nothing unpleasant happens) of heading towards Royal Assent early in 2019, then in force 3 months later for new tenancies, and a year later for existing periodic tenancies.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.



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