The government has taken the unusual step of working with a Labour MP to ensure her Private Members Bill can become law - and with it, give tenants the right to take legal action over the habitation standards of private rental property.
In an unusual announcement yesterday - Sunday - the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was helping Labour’s Karen Buck MP to draft a Private Members’ Bill known as the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability of Housing Standards) Bill.
The Bill ensures:
- that all landlords (both social and private sector) must ensure that their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout and;
- where a landlord fails to do so, the tenant has the right to take legal action in the courts for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation.
Local authority powers to deal with landlords who rent out unsafe of substandard accommodation already exist to some extent with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System - which was introduced by the Housing Act 2004 – which gives councils the right to assess whether a property contains potentially serious risks to the health and safety of the occupants.
Where a property contains health hazards, local authorities already have powers under the Housing Act 2004 to require that landlords make necessary improvements to a property. Where a property contains potentially serious risks to the health and safety of the occupants, the local authority must take appropriate action requiring the landlord to reduce or remove the risk.
Announcing his support for Buck's Bill Sajid Javid, the Housing Secretary, says: “Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live. Councils already have wide-ranging powers to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation.
“However, public safety is paramount and I am determined to do everything possible to protect tenants. That is why the government will support new legislation that requires all landlords to ensure properties are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action if landlords fail in their duties.”
Buck has previously tried to get the measure through the Commons in recent years, without success.
Yesterday the government also announced details of a panel, chaired by Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin, to examine the problem of large areas of land remaining undeveloped despite firms having permission to build on them.
Dominic Raab, the new housing minister, will chair a fortnightly meeting to oversee the group's work.