An online student publication is urging readers who are tenants to “go lawsuit crazy” when the full provisions of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act come into effect in two weeks time.
The Act, which applies to England only, came into effect last year but only for new tenancies; from March 20 it will apply to all tenancies.
The online student magazine Tab - in a story headlined “You can now sue your scumbag landlord for the mould in your student house” - says “You can actually claim money back for your new student house that ended up a little bit less than perfect (rats don’t count as a fun extra flatmate, stop lying to yourself), if it’s bad enough.”
Tab says that “probably 90 per cent” of student houses in the UK are unfit for human habitation and concludes by urging students "to gather up all of your mice and volatile organic compounds and go lawsuit crazy!"
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says guidelines to assess properties against the Act will be measured via the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
The most controversial part of the law allows tenants to take legal action in the courts, for breach of contract, if the property is in poor condition.
Properties will be measured by their state of repair, stability, freedom from damp, internal arrangement, natural lighting, ventilation, water supply, drainage and sanitary conveniences, and facilities for storing/preparing/cooking of food and disposal of waste water.
The guidelines are for tenants, landlords and councils and can be found here.
The extension of the act to cover all tenancies has been welcomed by Danny Zane, chair of The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks.
He says: “There has never been a more important time to utilise the skills of an independent property inspector to assess conditions in a tenanted property and carefully go through an appropriate list of the hazards to be looked out for. Property inventory clerks can go through properties assessing the 29 risks and assigning a risk category, where appropriate, to anything found to be deemed a safety issue”.
Zane describes the extension as “a great step in the right direction for the protection of tenants and their safety, both physically and financially.”