MPs in the House of Commons will today debate the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill, promoted by a Labour backbencher but with government support.
The Bill seeks to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and if it becomes law it will ensure that all private and social sector landlords must ensure that their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout.
More controversially, 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.
The Bill will initially apply only to new or renewed fixed term tenancies after it is implemented; 12 months after it becomes law - probably late 2019 - it will be extended to apply to periodic tenancies.
Trade bodies have been broadly supportive of the measure, put forward as a Private Member’s Bill by Karen Buck MP and reaching its Report Stage in the Commons today.
The Residential Landlords Association says it is supportive because the Bill makes it clear that if the property becomes unfit for human habitation thanks to the action of the tenant, then the landlord is not liable.
The RLA also says that with council cutbacks reducing the effective policing of standards in the private rental sector, tenants can take legal action ”and help force the worst elements out of our sector.”
Meanwhile ARLA says: “It will give renters greater protection against criminal operators, is a step in the right direction for the market, and as Karen Buck MP said, we look forward to working with her to achieve better enforcement against those who bring the sector into disrepute.”