Lord Best has recently outlined the hopes for the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill to overhaul the out-of-date current legislation for the private rented sector. The private member’s bill was introduced by MP, Karen Buck, with the aim of redressing the clear imbalance within the lettings sector, while empowering renters. With the private rented sector (PRS) experiencing phenomenal growth and since 2010 doubling in size, the Government is belatedly catching up with the after-effects of this.
The Bill will introduce a long list of important measures which will root out any so-called rogue landlords who unfairly give all landlords a bad reputation, while also protecting tenants. The Government is backing the Karen Buck’s bill, which has also gained support from key bodies representing both landlords and tenants. Generation Rent, Shelter and Citizen’s Advice, along with the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) have all given their support to the bill.
Another aim of the bill is to bring forward measures which will modernise out-of-date rules and legislation, including an amendment to the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act. This change would ensure that redundant constraints are removed, while also giving renters the right to take offending landlords to court. Tenants will no longer need to rely completely on local authorities to take action on bad landlords. Privately rented properties would be provided and maintained in a condition that is suitable for human habitation. Many local councils claim that they are so low on resources and are experiencing increased pressure, and few cases of poor housing conditions actually receive the attention and positive action they deserve. According to the English Housing Survey, it is estimated that approximately 750,000 privately rented homes pose an immediate and serious risk to their occupants.
The bill does not add any further requirements and regulations on landlords, but simply redefines what fit for human habitation means, and links together existing obligations from different parts of legislation on landlords. The vast majority of tenants and landlords will remain unaffected by the aims of the bill, as most privately and publicly rented accommodation is safe and in good condition. Crucially, the bill will give tenants the means and power to enforce the requirements themselves.
The bill is set to not only help private renters who find themselves living in sub-standard housing, but also tenants of local authorities. The bill will also confer rights to social tenants living in a similar situation to PRS tenants, where they will be given the powers to compel the local council to conduct the necessary works needed in order for their home to meet the proper standards. Currently, local authorities, as an enforcement body, cannot compel itself to take action, therefore leaving council tenants incapable of acting.
There will also be provisions included within the bill which will cover safety and health hazards in communal spaces and shared areas contained within blocks of flats, as a lesson learned from the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The bill had its second reading at the House of Lords on 23rd November, and it is now destined for the committee stage. Here, a detailed examination of the bill line by line will take place, with a discussion of amendments.
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