A Private Members’ Bill which will allow private rental sector tenants to sue over the conditions of their properties will today have its final Third Reading in the House of Lords.
This is regarded as a ‘tidying up’ stage before the Bill is sent back to the House of Commons for MPs to consider any amendments added by Peers; it will then get Royal Assent early next year.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill - which has the backing of the government as well as opposition parties - seeks to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and the Building Act 1984, and is supported by the Association of Residential Lettings Agents and major landlord groups.
When it becomes law it will mean that all landlords in the social and private sectors 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 for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation.
The MP behind the Bill, Labour’s Karen Buck, first presented an early version of the Bill back on June 24 2015.
In October that year the Bill was scuppered, as many Private Members’ Bills are in the arcane processes of Parliament.
However, in 2016 the then shadow housing minister, Teresa Pearce, attempted to amend other legislation to introduce Karen Buck’s fitness for human habitation proposals.
In response the then housing minister, Brandon Lewis, said that the Bill’s proposals on rogue landlords were a better way to improve standards without imposing “unnecessary regulation” on landlords.
Lewis argued that measures were already in place to keep properties in a decent state of repair, and that it was up to local authorities to enforce this properly.
Further attempts to amend the Bill in respect of fitness for human habitation were made in the Commons and Lords but on both occasions the amendment was defeated.
However, Buck reintroduced a modified version of the Bill in July last year, having won the support of many trade organisations and - ultimately - the backing of the government.