The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is supporting Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability of Housing Standards) Bill.

The Bill, which will receive its second reading on Friday, gives tenants the power to take their landlord to court if their homes are deemed not fit for purpose at the start of, and throughout, their tenancy.

The RLA says it is supporting a move that could see landlords end up in court because, 'as a landlord, the homes you are providing should be fit for people to live in.'

The Bill doesn’t introduce any new obligations, as standards are already effectively in place, via the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. (HHSRS)

It also offers protection to landlords by making it clear that should ‘unfitness’ be caused by the tenant’s actions, then the landlord won’t be liable.

Councils, housing associations, private landlords and build-to-rent will be on an equal footing, as the Bill, if passed, allows social housing tenants to access direct enforcement of housing standards.

A spokesman for the RLA said: "Local authorities have cut back in areas like environmental health spending in recent years, leaving little capacity to prosecute criminal landlords.

"Unless a council takes action, there is very little recourse for tenants, even when backed by organisations Shelter of Citizens Advice.

"Such criminals rely on avoiding prosecution in order to continue exploiting tenants.

"Now tenants, with suitable backing and proper evidence, will be able to take direct action to raise standards and help force the worst elements out of our sector."

Tenants cannot simply instigate court action, they need hard evidence, and the courts will very quickly deal with vexatious or malicious cases.

The Bill will initially only apply to new or renewed fixed term tenancies after it is implemented.

It will then apply to periodic tenancies 12 months after the bill comes into force, giving landlords time to ensure properties are up to standard.

RLA chairman Alan Ward said: "The RLA continues to fight for landlords and this Bill does not change its forceful opposition to proposals from the Government and the Opposition which have the ridiculous effect of raising the costs of those good landlords we need to encourage whilst enabling the criminals to operate under the radar, evading scrutiny.

"Karen Buck’s Bill is one part of changing the story from one that calls for ever more regulation towards one that calls for more intelligent regulation and better enforcement of what is already there. That should be welcomed."