Homes fit for Human Habitation: Key arguments

We asked the Residential Landlords Association and the MP introducing the Bill on making Homes fit for Human Habitation on why the legislation is important.

3 landlords sign up to council's lettings scheme

Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North

Three million people spent Christmas in an unfit home.

There is currently no obligation on landlords to put or keep the property in a condition fit for habitation, somewhat amazingly.

Landlords are required to repair the structure of the property, and keep in repair heating, gas, water and electricity installations, but that only applies where something is broken or damaged.

It does not cover things like fire safety, inadequate heating or poor ventilation. There are a whole range of ‘fitness’ issues, about which tenants can do nothing at all.

For private sector (and housing association) tenants it is possible for the council to take enforcement action under the HHSRS.

Social tenants don’t even have that protection- councils can’t enforce against themselves.

On January 19th, I will introduce a Private Members Bill enabling all tenants to take action on the same issues and standards as local authorities can, thus putting into effect Law Commission and Court of Appeal recommendations.

This means tenants could take action against the landlord to make them put right problems or hazards that make the property unfit, and could seek compensation when they don’t.

It is only one weapon in the battle against substandard accommodation, but one well worth having.


David Smith, Policy Director for the Residential Landlords Association.

For too long the actions of a minority of landlords providing sub-standard housing have been able to undercut the majority. Karen Buck MP’s Bill will help to address this.

Poorly resourced councils have been unable to provide the long-term focus required to root out landlords providing housing that is simply not fit for human habitation.

Additionally, councils are unable to take enforcement action in respect of their own property and have proven unwilling to take action against that provided by other social landlords.

This bill would ensure tenants are no longer reliant on councils to take action for them, enabling them to hold their landlords to account. The RLA believes that the bill could go further, providing for a new housing court, by building on the current Property Tribunal, to provide much swifter justice for tenants and good landlords, including enforcement of the new rights given to tenants under this bill.

This is a bill which does not impose any new regulatory burdens on the housing market, but is about better enforcement.

The only people who need fear it are bad private and social sector landlords. We hope the government will agree and support the bill.