Bid to update rented accommodation law backed by landlords
A private member’s bill requiring landlords to maintain a property in a ‘state fit for human habitation’ is set to have a second reading in Parliament on Friday 19 January 2018.
Labour MP Karen Buck’s 'Fit for Human Habitation Bill' also gives tenants the right to sue their landlord if they rent a property considered to be in a squalid or inhospitable condition.
If it’s passed, it would resurrect a law that has been lying dormant since 1885, stating that tenants have the right to a home that is fit for habitation if the rent is less than £52 per year (or £80 in the capital) – figures which were set way back in 1957.
Opponents of the latest bill claim only 2,006 landlords have so far been convicted of offences under the Housing Act 2004, suggesting only a tiny minority of the UK’s 2 million landlords are letting substandard accommodation.
But supporters say that’s a fraction of issue, and think the new bill will help raise standards across the private rented sector, and benefit both tenants and landlords alike in the long term.
David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), said: “Tenants have a right to expect that homes are fit for habitation, and the vast majority of good landlords already provide this. This bill therefore reinforces what landlords should already be doing.”
Alex Huntley, Head of Operations at Simple Landlords Insurance, added: “There’s an opportunity for this bill to deal more efficiently with the small minority of landlords who simply shouldn’t be allowed to be landlords. We shouldn’t be afraid to raise quality standards, or to enforce them. Responsible landlords will not be affected - and the housing market will be better for all as a result.”
In 2016, the Bill failed to pass through parliament after being blocked by Conservative MPs. Some feared the new law could be abused, and were concerned it would deter law-abiding landlords from entering the market or expanding their portfolios.
The revised version applies to all parts of the building which are owned by the landlord, making it more relevant to blocks of flats in particular. In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June, the Government has come under increasing pressure to ensure that all housing – both social and private – is safe and fit for human habitation - and that’s likely to give the revised bill a better chance of getting through in January.
“Grenfell has affected everybody,” said Alex. “We know landlords are already taking action on fire safety - and this bill may well clarify their duties even further.”