In an unusual move the government has today, Sunday, announced that it wants tenants to have the right to take legal action if their private rental property is in poor condition.
The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government has taken the highly unorthodox step of announcing that it is 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 this is not done, the tenant will have 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 does contain hazards, local authorities have strong 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 the Bill this morning, Sajid Javid, the Housing Secretary, said: “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.