A very common complaint each year is the condition of housing on moving in. The many complaints suggest properties have not been prepared and sorted before tenants arrival. Many tenancies are literally back to back with one set of tenants moving out in the morning and another set moving in during the afternoon or a day apart. Realistically this does not give a landlord or agent the time to inspect, repair or clean adequately to ensure the property is prepared. A landlord is responsible for making sure the property is ‘fit for human habitation’ at the start and during the tenancy.
One person’s view on whether a property is fit to live in can vary widely from another person’s. Moving into a property where your excited anticipation and expectation is dashed by poor standards and condition either by the landlords our outgoing tenants, is not the same and it not being fit to live in although it can sometimes feel like it. Sometimes it is parents or family members that have more concerns than the actual tenants. Finding a dirty fridge or left belongings and un vacuumed floors is not the same as a property riddled with damps and and rooms without windows.
In more serious cases, to determine whether something is unfit for human habitation, a court will consider whether a property is 'not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition' because of one or more of the following matters:
- Freedom from damp
- Internal arrangement
- Natural lighting
- Water supply
- Drainage and sanitary condition
- Facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of water.
- Any ‘prescribed hazards’ defined under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
However, just because one or more of the above hazards exist, that is not enough to make a property unfit to live in. Instead, a court will consider in each case whether ‘it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition'. If they consider this to be the case they can order a specific performance order to reduce or remove the unfitness and can award to the tenant damages/compensation. Of course, there are some exemptions as with most legislation, but this is the general position.
If you find yourself in this position on moving in, whether it's the more minor issues of disarray, property tidiness and cleanliness or the more serious concerns about unfitness, report your dissatisfaction immediately to the landlord/agent and request a plan of action. Try to get everything in writing.
Additionally, your inventory/schedule of condition and cleanliness is paramount at this point. If you don’t get given one create your own or use and adapt our template. Document the condition of the property and furniture and fittings thoroughly and supplement with dated photographs. It will help to read our section on Inventories. You can also report the property as a complaint to the local council Here in Newcastle that is via email@example.com In London that will be via your local borough council. Another very useful source of information on dealing with repairs is Advice Now.