Uninhabitable Home Claims

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uninhabitable Homes
LPC & GDL Matthew Shiels
Legally reviewed by: LPC & GDL Matthew Shiels In: Housing Disrepair


Figures show that 43 million households were rented in the UK in 2021. The tenants who rent their homes, put their trust in their landlord to fulfil their duty and keep in keeping the property fit to live in. However, in some situations, landlords neglect these duties, resulting in their tenants living in an uninhabitable home.

The new Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which will be referred to in this article as the Homes Act, was introduced on the 20th March 2019, to ensure landlords make their rentals fit for their tenants. As a result, vulnerable tenants can now take their landlords to court for a failure of these duties. The court can enforce your landlord to carry out repairs and pay compensation to the tenant.

When Is a Home Uninhabitable?

Your landlord legally has a legal obligation to make your home fit to live in during your tenancy.
A rented home is unfit to live in if it:

  • Seriously affects your health
  • Puts you at risk of physical harm or injury
  • Results in you not being able to make full use of your home

Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

On the 20th March 2019, a new law came into force to ensure that rented houses and flats are fit for residency. This means that the home is safe, healthy, and free from things that could cause serious harm. Therefore, landlords have an obligation to make sure the houses and flats that they rent out are secure, safe, and fit to live in.

However, some landlords fail this duty resulting in their tenants living in dangerous or unhealthy conditions.

The new Homes Act strives to help venerable tenants by holding irresponsible landlords accountable for improving the property or leaving the business.

If your house or flat is not ‘fit for human habitation’, you are now able to take your landlord to court. The court will be able to enforce your landlord to carry out repairs or correct the health and safety issues. Additionally, the court can enforce the landlord to pay compensation to the tenant.

What Properties Does the Homes Act Apply To?

The Homes Act applies to the following:

  • Council housing
  • Housing association
  • Private landlord or letting agent

You are covered straight away if your tenancy started after the 19th March 2019 or if:

  • You have signed a new fixed-term agreement
  • Your tenancy became period (rolling)
  • Your tenancy is fixed for less than 7 years

If your tenancy starts before the 19th March, the new rules apply from the 20th March 2020.

It does not matter if you pay rent or if you are on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit for the Act to apply.

Lodgers, Temporary Housing and Licence Agreements

If you have a licence agreement rather than a tenancy, you are not covered by the Homes Act rules. As a result, you are likely to have a licence agreement if:

  • Firstly, you live in temporary housing or a hostel
  • Additionally, you are a lodger that lives with your landlord

Steps to Take For Tenants Living in an Uninhabitable Home

Assess the Issues

When assessing what the issue is that is causing your home to be uninhabitable some of the uninhabitable home reasons covered in the Homes Act are:

What If My Issue Isn’t Covered By the Homes Act?

If your issue is not covered in the above list, there is a chance you cannot use the Homes Act. You can ask for help from our expert housing disrepair solicitors. Additionally, if you are a council housing tenant, you make a complaint to your local council.
Read more about how to make a complaint to your local council here.

See If There Is a Reason the Landlord Won’t Help

If your case goes to court, you will need to have a justifiable reason as to why the disrepair in your property makes it an uninhabitable home.

In an emergency, your landlord is allowed to enter the property. However, when making repairs to the property, your landlord needs to give at least 24 hours of notice. Additionally, the visit should be during ‘reasonable hours.’ This usually means not late at night, too early in the morning or during your work hours.

If your landlord has not given any notice or has tried to make a repair during an unreasonable hour, they cannot say they have made reasonable efforts to make the property habitable.

Make sure to keep all records of conversations with your landlord. As a result, this will help prove that you were not given reasonable notice.

Tell Your Landlord

Make sure to inform your landlord of the issues in the property.
Your landlord is obligated to fix the issues in your home once you have informed them. You can inform your landlord in an email, text, or letter. It’s best to do so in writing so records of conversations can be kept. You should allow a reasonable amount of time for your landlord to respond to the problem.

Fixing an Uninhabitable Home in a Reasonable Amount of Time

Once your landlord has been informed of any issues with the property, they are obligated to fix them in a reasonable time frame, depending on the severity of the issue. Therefore, if you live in social housing, your landlord may be held accountable by the Housing Ombudsman for the length of time to fix the issue.

Landlord’s Exceptions for an Uninhabitable Home

  • Issues caused by the tenant’s behaviour
    If you or another tenant at the property has behaved either irresponsibly or illegally the landlord may not have to fix any of the house problems caused by your behaviour
  • Events that are out of the landlord’s control such as floods, fires, or storm damage
    If your house has been damaged by something outside of your or your landlord’s control, you cannot use the Homes Act, but you can still contact your local council for help if your landlord doesn’t take the steps to help.
  • If the landlord is unable to get permission from other parties
    You are not able to use the Homes Act if your landlord has not been given permission to do work from people such as the owners of the building that your flat is in, or the local council if planning permission is needed. However, you can ask for evidence that your landlord has tried to get permission, and you can still contact your local council for help.
  • If the damage does not belong to the landlord, such as furniture belonging to previous tenants
    This would be if the items that are damaged were not included in the inventory at the beginning of your tenancy.

Using the Homes Act

If your landlord is taking too long or has not fixed the problem in your property our solicitors can advise you on whether you can use the Homes Act to take your landlord to court.

Firstly, you will need to write to your landlord again asking them to solve the issue. This should be done via email or letter. As a result, if you go to court this will be used as evidence, you tried to sort the issue with your landlord first. If you are using a letting agent, you should also inform them too.

Your letter should include what is wrong with the property and what needs fixing. You should also include if you have had to ask them for this more than once. Finally, you should include any issues this has caused you physically or mentally.

Make sure to keep a copy of the letter and any reply you receive. Your landlord may offer to make repairs or come to an agreement which can sometimes be easier than going to court.

If your landlord has still not co-operated our team of housing disrepair solicitors can guide you through the next steps and start your court process.

What if my landlord tries to evict me?

The act of your landlord evicting you if you complain or take them to court can sometimes be called ‘retaliatory eviction’. If this is something that you are experiencing, you should contact your local council as soon as possible and explain what is happening.

If your council decides to take enforcement action against your landlord to make repairs or works, it can be more difficult for your landlord to evict you. However, you do not need to wait for your council to act. If you think that there is serious health and safety problem at your rented property, you can tell your council at the same time as taking your landlord to court.

If you are worried about being evicted the GOV.uk site recommends contacting Citizens Advice, Shelter, your local council, or a tenant’s rights group.

What happens to my landlord if I win the court case?

If the court decides that your landlord has not provided a home fit for habitation, they can:

- Make the landlord do the work needed to improve the home
- Make your landlord pay compensation

The amount of compensation that you could get for housing disrepair varies greatly, depending on a number of different factors. A chat with one of our specialists will allow you to understand what you may be entitled to.

What has the new legislation changed?

The new legislation means that landlords must ensure that any property they rent is free of hazards that could lead to a risk of harm to the health or safety of the occupiers. This requirement applies from the start, duration, and end of the tenancy.

Additionally, If the landlord fails to make the property habitable, the tenant has the right to take legal action in the courts for beach of contact on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation. 

This means that tenants have a new route for seeking redress instead of solely relying on their council to prosecute on their behalf.

What happens if I lose the court case?

If you lose your court case, you may have to pay some costs. However, having a solicitor on your case will provide the best assurance that this does not happen as our team will only put your case to court if they believe it should win.

A chat with one of our specialists will allow you to understand the best options for you regarding your case.

What to do if I can’t use the Home (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018?

If you cannot use the new legislation, there are still other routes you can take. This includes, making a complaint to your local council, and contacting citizens' advice. If you are unsure whether you can use the new legislation, get in contact and our solicitors will advise you on the best course of action.

How Our Housing Disrepair Solicitors Can Help with an Uninhabitable Home

Our housing disrepair solicitors can guide you through each step of the court process, assuring you go in with the strongest case you can. Therefore, our solicitors will help you compile all the necessary evidence.

Knowing what evidence can be used in your case can help you collect it, making the court process easier. Some of the evidence that may be included is:

  • Photographs of the issues
  • a doctor’s note regarding any mental or physical health problems that have been caused or made worse by your home being ‘unfit for human habitation’
  • receipts from items you have had to replace
  • a copy of your tenancy agreement if you have one, or proof you are paying rent to your landlord
  • a report from any experts you have paid to look at the problem. Their evidence can help to strengthen your claim. This is optional and examples include electricians or the environmental health department of your local council. If your local council’s environmental health department, or your council’s estates team, have already inspected, they might have provided a report.

Whether your claim is big or small, the process can provide complicated. Therefore, our housing disrepair solicitors can help make sure you have the best chances for compensation.

AWH has handled many cases where tenants have been treated unfairly and misinformed of their rights by their social landlords. Additionally, all our disrepair solicitors are authorised and regulated by the solicitors regulation authority.

Our housing disrepair solicitors do more than just help you make a housing health claim. They can guide and support you when you have suffered and get you the justice you deserve. Our housing disrepair solicitors are regulated by the solicitors regulation authority SRA and your claim is on conditional fee agreements.

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