Fitness for Human Habitation: A guide for landlords
Making the properties safe, healthy, and comfortable for living should be the goal of every good landlord.
In the UK, the process is also covered legally by the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) act. It came into force in 2019, and besides giving more rights to tenants, it was also highly supported by landlords’ associations, too.
So, what criteria do landlords have to meet? What is defined as uninhabitable living conditions? What are the penalties if a property doesn’t comply? And how to effectively inspect flats and houses to make them ready for tenants?
What is the Fitness for Human Habitation (FFHH) act?
In short, the Homes FFHH act makes it mandatory for landlords to ensure that rented houses and flats are safe and secure for living. This applies for the entire duration of a tenancy. If the set criteria are not met, tenants can sue their landlords. The landlords can then be obliged by court to fix all issues or pay compensation to their tenants.
The act was introduced on March 20, 2019, as an extension of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
What are the criteria that define uninhabitable living conditions in the FFHH act?
Landlords have to ensure that the property meets the criteria set by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Key matters that a court can consider are:
- The building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
- The building is unstable
- There’s a serious problem with damp
- It has an unsafe layout
- There’s not enough natural light
- There’s not enough ventilation
- There is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
- There are problems with the drainage or the lavatories
- It’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
If the condition doesn’t meet any of the required criteria, the tenants should inform their landlord. Afterward, the landlord is considered responsible for the repair and should fix it as soon as possible, as stated in the act.
There are some exceptions when the landlord won’t be as responsible for the fix. These situations include:
- If the tenant causes the problem by behaving irresponsibly or illegally
- If a natural disaster or other unforeseeable natural phenomenon (often referred to as “act of God”) causes the issue. For example, a flood, earthquake, tsunami, or storm
- If the problem is associated with the inventory owned by the tenant
- If the landlord didn’t get the permission (from the owner of the property) to conduct the repair. In this case, he needs to have evidence he made a reasonable effort to obtain the permission
- If the rental is not issued to an individual but, for example, to a local authority or educational institution
How can landlords make sure they comply with the act?
Not much has changed for landlords and property managers. They still need to invest in repairs required by the law. But the most significant efficiency gains can be achieved in the way property inspections are reported and how they communicate with tenants.
For companies managing several properties, it is beneficial to standardize the whole process of inspecting, reporting, and contract signing. Thanks to standardization, landlords can prevent mistakes that may occur at any stage of a tenancy.
For example, if the landlord doesn’t use a checklist during a move-in & move-out inspection, it is easy to forget to check all the necessary inventory. Later, this can lead to an argument with the tenant about the original state of an item. That’s why it’s also beneficial to keep photo-documentation of a flat or house before a new tenant moves in.
As a lot of paperwork and documentation is required when renting out a property, it’s safer to standardize checklists and procedures at the very beginning to ensure compliance across the board.
Fit for human habitation checklist
Landlords can use paper checklists or start to use digital forms for property inspections or reporting. But while paper is a standard in the industry for decades, digital inspections are becoming more popular by the day. They make it easier to store documentation, include photos, or share reports immediately with tenants. Whichever fits them better, landlords need to make sure that the questionnaires you use are up-to-date and comply with the actual regulation.
Fitness for human habitation reporting software
You can start to digitize paper checklists with the Resco Inspections software. It offers a Questionnaire Designer feature that allows to fully customize your forms. Add your own questions to the checklists, easily capture photos with a smartphone or tablet and include them in reports immediately.
As we mentioned before, photo-documentation made during an inspection adds visual information to the communication. This can easily become the most important piece of a report for both landlords and tenants, as clear photos can prevent many potential disputes.
Fitness for Human Habitation (FFHH) act summary
The FFHH act is in force for just a little over a year, but the benefits and rights it brings to tenants are already visible. It is yet another push to further increase the industry standards, rather than a scary regulation. And digitalization opens the door to new efficiencies for all involved. With better reports, standardized checklists, or effective online communication, there can be fewer disputes regarding tenancy than ever before.
With Resco Inspections, you can also use free predefined templates to start your digital journey straight away. Utilize the move-in & move-out inspections or asbestos safety inspections template (the HHSRS standards also require the asbestos check). You can try Resco Inspections for free, simply by starting a free 30-day trial.