New law means tenants can sue landlords over cold and mouldy homes

Currently, private renters have to rely on over-stretched local authorities to investigate poor conditions, while social tenants have no effective means to hold their council to account, according to Shelter.

And the housing charity warns there are currently almost 1million rented homes with hazards that pose a serious risk to health and safety.

But the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, which will amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, should change this.

It'll take force on March 20 and means landlords must make sure their properties meet certain standards at the beginning and throughout a tenancy.

Shelter says the new rules will see issues such as damp caused by design defects – from a lack of ventilation, for example, rather than disrepair, and infestations of rodents, insects, and bed bugs fall under the landlord's responsibility for the first time.

How quickly should repairs be fixed?

Landlord associations generally advise that if there is a "significant risk of danger to the health, safety or security of a tenant" then the issue must be resolved within 24 hours.

Landlords have three working days to resolve problems that "materially affect the comfort or convenience" of residents and up to 28 days for less urgent repairs.

Around 1.85million tenant households have had disrepair in the past four years that their landlord was responsible for and that wasn't fixed within the agreed timescales, according to Citizens Advice research.

The rules will force landlords to carry out repairs or to rectify problems.

If landlords fail to meet these standards, renters who have a tenancy of less than seven years will be given the right to take their landlord to court.

The court can then grant an injunction forcing the the landlord to carry out works or award compensation to the renter.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter said: “The Fitness for Human Habitation Act will give all types of renters the power they need to tackle bad conditions – which is why Shelter campaigned hard for it to be passed as law.

“With more and more families renting privately, we desperately need more protections and security for renters.

"The Act will help enforce best practice for landlords and agents, act as a deterrent for bad behaviour, and provide a legal lever for renters to pull if their landlord isn’t complying.”

Minister for housing and homelessness, Heather Wheeler MP, added: "This new law is a further step to ensure that tenants have the decent homes they deserve."

Different rules are in place for renters in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Visit Citizens Advice Scotland and Northern Ireland Direct for more information.

Renters posted pictures of damp, mould filled flats on social media last year as campaigners called for fairer terms for tenants.

But there are more changes planned for renters this year, from deposit caps to three-year tenancies – we round-up the changes to renting that you need to know about in 2019.

A ban on letting agents charging renters rip-off fees will take force from this summer.

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