A Labour MP is launching a campaign to force private landlords to ensure that their premises are fit for habitation.
Karen Buck, the member for Westminster North, has introduced her Homes Fit for Habitation Bill to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act.
The Bill’s core provision is to allow tenants to claim redress for a breach of an implied term of the tenancy by suing for damages or getting an injunction if a property is allegedly unit, avoiding the current dependence on a local authority serving a notice.
Buck says her Bill modernises the definition of what constitutes “unfitness” by adding Category 1 hazards under the 2004 Housing Act to the list of factors. She says the Bill provides necessary protection for landlords where the cause of “unfitness” is due to the actions of the tenant or a natural disaster or phenomenon, and it makes clear that the landlord is not liable for property owned by the tenant.
It is usual that measures introduced this way rarely get sufficient support to become law in their own right but if it secures government support some of its contents may be added to existing legislation.
Buck has also been actively speaking out against the proliferation of short lets in her constituency and other areas of central London.
“No sensible person could object to the holiday home-swap or the occasional money-making holiday let. Only that isn't the whole story. Even with the protection of the current law, requiring permission for any short-term lets, Westminster Council alone has had to take an average of 500 enforcement actions each year for breaches of the rules” writes Buck on her website.
“And the fact that these problems are overwhelmingly concentrated in areas on the fringes of the West End tells us that such enforcement isn't usually directed against the family swapping with pen-pals in California. This is action to resist the tourist trade eating deep into residential neighbourhoods, eroding the residential housing stock and making life harder for those who remain” she writes.
Buck is considered a skilled operator at using Private Members’ Bills.
In 2013 she was considered highly successful in her bid to publicise the potential problems associated with digging down into basements in properties in her constituency, and many others in central London. Some local authorities have subsequently taken a harder view on such schemes.