Fitness to live in implied term for furnished accommodation

A term that furnished premises must be fit to be lived in on the day of letting is implied into tenancy agreements.

This content applies to England & Wales

Furnished accommodation

Where premises are let furnished, they must be 'fit to be lived in' on the day the letting begins.[1] This is also true where the unfitness is not obvious at the time of the letting, but comes to light during the tenancy.[2]

If the property is unfit, the landlord is in breach of the tenancy agreement.

The courts have decided that premises are unfit for human habitation at common law if they:

  • are infested with bugs

  • have defective drainage or sewerage systems

  • are infected

  • have a lack of safety, or

  • have an insufficient water supply

In addition, the courts may consider the statutory definition of unfitness in considering whether premises are unfit at common law.

The statutory test of fitness for human habitation, contained in section 604 of the Housing Act 1985, remained in place until 6 April 2006. After that date, the Housing Health and Safety Rating System applies, under the Housing Act 2004. Section 604 (of the 1985 Act) is potentially relevant for claims of unfitness prior to April 2006, while the new system of categorised hazards may have greater relevance in respect of subsequent claims.

Unfurnished premises

There is no implied term for unfurnished lettings.[3]

The Court of Appeal has indicated that for such a covenant to be extended to unfurnished lettings the initiative must come through legislation and not from the courts.[4]

Premises let on licences

Where premises have been let on licences, the courts have been more willing to impose a requirement that the property must be fit for human habitation whether they are furnished or unfurnished.

Breach of the implied term

If the landlord fails to comply with this implied covenant, the tenant is entitled to quit the property immediately without liability for rent,[5] and may also sue for breach of contract.[6]

Last updated: 23 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    Smith v Marrable [1843] 11 M& W 5.

  • [2]

    Harrison v Malet [1886] 3 TLR 58.

  • [3]

    Hart v Windsor [1844] 12 M&W 68 (houses).

  • [4]

    McNerny v Lambeth LBC (1988) 21 HLR 188.

  • [5]

    Wilson v Finch-Hatton [1887] 2 Ex D 336.

  • [6]

    Harrison v Malet [1886] 3 TLR 58.