Legislation exists whereby tenants can potentially sue a landlord who fails to adequately maintain their property.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 means that tenants can take direct action over substandard property, rather than having to rely on their local authority to pursue a landlord who fails to adequately maintain it. Courts will not only be able to force landlords to carry out repairs, but can also award damages to tenants.
The scope of the legislation is wide-ranging, although it is primarily designed to prevent landlords forcing tenants to accept substandard, unsafe or unsanitary accommodation with issues such as blocked drains, damp walls, inadequate ventilation, lack of natural light, etc. This extends the requirements of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 as well as numerous other laws requiring landlords to ensure safety in respect of electricity, gas, fire, boiler servicing, etc. The governments existing Housing Health and Safety Rating System provides extensive guidance on this.
Of course, a good landlord would immediately respond to a tenant’s concern over, say, a dampness issue. But this could now go legal if nothing is done about it. The problem is those good landlords who have entrusted their property management to a letting agent who might not be so fastidious, as the landlord still retains liability. It could be costly to assume that these extended requirements are being adhered to – or even recognised.
In some ways, the easy part is finding a tenant – but it takes ongoing care, consideration and an extensive understanding of current and ever-changing regulations to ensure that a property investment is no only profitable, but legal too. We’d therefore recommend that landlords check their property now and if there are any doubts over their agent’s commitment to maintain it in a decent state of repair, do something about it.
There are of course commercial advantages to being a fantastic landlord with an equally fantastic managing agent; a happy tenant stays longer and pays more. Our rule of thumb is to ask “what standards would we expect if we lived there ourselves?” The answer to this question goes far beyond the minimum standards required by law. It means a clean oven, white grouting, a new shower curtain, fresh carpets, clean windows, no dripping taps, good furniture, nice paintwork, well-hung cupboard doors, a neat garden, etc.
Please feel free to call your local Bidmead Cook branch for an initial discussion about how your tenants can expect to enjoy your investment as you as much as you should enjoy your return on it.