With the Bill gathering momentum and gaining cross-party support, and its report stage set for October 2018, now is the time to learn about the Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Bill and how it will impact your business.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill aims to ensure that residential homes rented in England are suitable for human habitation at the beginning of a tenancy, with standards maintained throughout. Commissioned by Labour MP Karen Buck, the Bill seeks to amend relevant areas of the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 and extend its responsibilities to include all landlords, as well as updating the present fitness for habitation test.

The current fitness for habitation requirements contained within section 8 of the Act have almost ceased to have any effect due to the unchanged rent limits contained within the legislation. In situations where a landlord lets and fails to maintain the property of a standard fit for human habitation, the proposed legislation set by the bill will give tenants the right to take legal action in the courts. Wales already has a similar provision in place, known as the Renting Homes Act of 2016.

There have been continuing concerns within the private rented sector (PRS) focusing on property standards, with the English Housing Survey (EHS) of 2017 finding that the number of homes with one or more indicators of poor housing stood at 38 per cent. The EHS shows that 27 per cent of PRS properties failed the standards of decent homes in 2016, with owner-occupied housing and social housing at 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

Whilst the proportion of homes failing the decent homes standard has fallen from 47 per cent in 2006, the number of properties failing the standard has remained constant, at 1.3 million in 2016 and 1.2 million in 2006. The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire has also focused attention on property standards across all sectors. The current law is regarded as outdated, tenure dependent, complex and unevenly enforced.

The purpose of the bill is to amend the current Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985, and to ensure that residential rented properties are provided and maintained to a standard fit for human habitation. The proposals set forth in the Bill are regarded as a way to improve standards and avoid burdening landlords with unnecessary regulations. The bill has gained the support of organisations such as the National Association of Landlords (NLA), Residential Landlords Association (RLA) and Shelter, as the proposed legislation focuses on closing the gaps regarding property condition, repairing obligations and fitness of the property.

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