Fitness for Human Habitation Bill passes second Commons reading

Leading campaigner calls for supplementary action to prevent unfair evictions and improve access to legal support.

 

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The Fitness for Human Habitation Bill inches ever closer to statute having passed its second reading in the Commons – but a leading campaigner wants more.

Dan Wilson Craw, Director of Generation Rent, said cross-party support for the Bill is a “brilliant achievement” for Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, and the campaigning organisations involved.

“Too often tenants are powerless to get hazards in their homes fixed, so the ability to sue negligent landlords will be an essential new route to justice.

But so that tenants can properly exercise their rights once this is enacted, Parliament must also act to prevent unfair evictions and improve access to legal support, he said.

In 2016 Tory MPs talked out proposed new rules requiring private sector landlords to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation

The Bill intends to amend:

  • The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation
  • The Building Act 1984 to make provision about the liability for works on residential accommodation that do not comply with Building Regulations; and for connected purpose

Effectively, the Bill – if approved – gives private and social tenants the ability to take landlords to court if their home is unsafe

A “category 1 hazard” classification – or direct threat to health and safety – currently covers 795,000 private tenancies.

That’s one in six of the privately rented homes in the country.

Government backed the Bill this week, but even with that backing if fewer than 100 supporters show up on the day, a single MP could  talk the Bill out.

That’s why giving tenants an additional route to justice through the courts is so important.

The bill proposes changes to a law that has existed since 1885, but it is based on rent levels that haven’t been raised since 1957.

Buck’s bill would abolish the rent cap, enabling tenants to bring civil proceedings in the county court when a property is unfit for habitation under the Housing Act 2004.

A landlord may even be made to pay compensation for the period for which the property was unfit.

Backed by landlord associations, the changes are said to make no difference to existing legal obligations .

Around 123 MPs are letting out property.

In 2016 Tory have voted against rules requiring private sector landlords to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation.

A Labour amendment to the government’s housing and planning Bill designed to ensure that all rented accommodation was safe for people to live in, was defeated by 312 votes to 219.

The then local government minister, Marcus Jones, said the proposal would result in “unnecessary regulation and cost” to landlords, deterring further investment and pushing up rents .

He said: “Of course we believe that all homes should be of a decent standard and all tenants should have a safe place to live regardless of tenure, but local authorities already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality and safe accommodation and we expect them to use them.”

 

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