Labour MP Karen Buck is to reintroduce her Private Members Bill into Parliament today - and if it is passed, she hopes private tenants will be able to sue their landlords if they rent a property considered to be in a squalid condition.
Buck, who represents Westminster North, is reintroducing the Bill called the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill; if passed it would resurrect a law dating back to 1885.
Tenants already have the right to a home that is fit for human habitation, but only if the rent is less than £52 per annum (or £80 in London) – figures set back in 1957.
Under much more recent legislation, the Housing Act of 2004, landlords can be forced to make repairs by local councils but the authorities tend to act only on tenants’ complaints, and have few resources to pro-actively inspect the private rental accommodation.
Only 2,006 landlords have been convicted of offences under the Housing Act 2004 so far.
When Buck introduced the Bill on the first occasion, a year ago, she explained that she wanted legislation to counter, in her words at the time, “a growth in the numbers of landlords who try to cut corners and get away with letting out substandard accommodation.”
David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association, has welcomed the return of the Bill.
“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” he says.
“By providing a route to direct tenant enforcement of basic housing standards the Bill will give a further opportunity to deal with the minority of landlords who have no place in the market. Current legislation often lets these criminals off the hook due to underfunded councils being unable to properly enforce it. We look forward to working with Ms Buck as the Bill is developed and considered in Parliament.”