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What is the Housing Act?

15 May 2021 Simon Banks Read time: 3 min
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Simon Banks

There are lots of fun parts to renting, such as the day when you move into your brand new shiny place. But there are also things you should know about the legal side of renting a home, such as the Housing Act 1988. 

Now, we know what you’re thinking: why should anyone need to know about something designed over 30 years ago. And yet, the Housing Act contains the laws that relate to you as a renter. Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to familiarise yourself with it. 

That’s where we come in with this guide. We’re answering all the important questions about the House Act 1988 to give you more clarity and transparency over renting a home. So read on and find out everything you need to know about the House Act 1988. 

What is the Housing Act 1988?

The Housing Act is a piece of legislation that oversees the majority of the private rental sector. It helps you better understand the powers your landlord has and how it may affect you. It’s kind of like a renting rulebook. 

The act itself is incredibly detailed and super in-depth, so we’ve summarised the most important aspects. If, however, you would like to flick through it yourself, you can find a copy of the Housing Act 1988 here

You might already know about the Housing Act 1988

The Housing Act 1988 is included with your tenancy agreement and is often mentioned within the documents you need to read and sign. It’s important to remember that the Housing Act is different from the tenancy agreement, which sets out the specifics about renting with your landlord. The Housing Act details the rights, remedies and rules related to the letting of a residential home. 

It was acceptable in the eighties

There was lots of debate before the Housing Act was passed, with many believing that laws were too favourable for renters. Pre-1988, renters could have stayed in a property for as long as they wanted and even passed it onto their children. This essentially left landlords completely powerless. 

While the idea of having the ability to stay for as long as you like and pass it onto your children sounded good on paper, in reality, it caused a fair few problems. For starters, rental stock significantly reduced because landlords didn’t want to risk someone renting and never leaving. 

On top of this, the government had just granted powers to those living in council properties, giving them the right to buy their homes. It meant there was a massive shortage of housing (sound familiar?). That’s why the Housing Act was introduced – to give landlords some protection and encourage them to start renting out their properties again. 

What’s in the Housing Act?

The primary points of focus for the housing act include:

  • Security of Tenure – the birth of ASTs, the Housing Act gave landlords the legal right to give notice to a renter after the initial contract between renter and landlord expired
  • Succession – introducing the succession rule meant that renters with families could no longer pass the properties down to their children. Under the new AST, rules removed rights of succession if the tenant dies
  • Rent regulation – rent regulation was previously based on age and condition of the property, as well as its location. After the 1988 act, however, rent controls were removed. That meant landlords were not legally limited by set amounts they could charge for rent anymore. 

Fair enough, but it’s been going for over 30 years. How does it affect renters now?

The most prominent rule of the Housing Act is rent regulation. It means that you can only challenge the amount of rent in two very specific circumstances. One is if you’re on an assured shorthold tenancy. This means you can query the amount you pay within the first six months of your fixed tenancy. 

The other is that you can challenge the rental amount if you have been served a notice of a rent increase. Landlords can only serve notice annually after the fixed term has ended, however. 

Is there anything in the Housing Act that protects renters?

Under the Housing Act, landlords need to ensure that they don’t breach your statutory rights. It implies that the clauses in the tenancy agreement must be adhered to, and if any of your rights are breached, the agreement could then become invalid. 

Statutory rights include: 

  • Living in a safe home that’s in a good state and doesn’t need repairs
  • Getting your deposit back when your tenancy ends, as long as you haven’t breached the tenancy
  • Knowing who is the landlord of the property
  • Challenging excessive rental amounts
  • Being protected from unlawful eviction
  • Seeing an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the place you’re renting
  • Being given a written agreement if you have a fixed-term tenancy for over three years

Understanding the Housing Act 1988

The Housing Act might sound predominantly pro-landlord, but it does contain essential information about your rights as a renter. Over the years (1996 and 2004), there have been a few additional amendments changing how homes are inspected, too. And you can expect more amendments in the future, especially if Section 21 is abolished. The fundamentals remain the same, however. Therefore, it’s important to familiarise yourself with them if you’re renting a home.  

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