The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons today. This is a major milestone towards the Bill becoming law. Highly unusually for a Private Members Bill, let alone one brought by an opposition MP, it now has the support of the Government.
The Bill is brought by Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North. Giles Peaker, partner in the Housing and Public Law team, together with Justin Bates of Arden Chambers, has been working closely with Karen Buck on the content and progress of the Bill, ever since the first attempt to get it into law in 2015. Giles and Justin helped Karen draft the bill as well as working closely with her as it progresses.
The Bill will at last give all tenants in England a right to a home that is fit for habitation under their tenancy agreement. Their landlord will have an obligation to them to keep the property fit for habitation throughout the tenancy, regardless of whether the problem is caused by a lack of repair or a problem with the nature of the property itself.
Condensation due to poor ventilation, mould growth, inadequate or no heating, dangerous stairs with no hand rails, these and other hazards will finally be something a tenant can take action to have put right.
While private tenants can ask their local council to take action on hazards now, the figures show that many complaints are not acted on and that there is a postcode lottery on the amount of enforcement different councils carry out. Council tenants cannot even rely on this, as a council cannot take action against itself. If the Bill becomes law, tenants can make their landlord put the property in a habitable state, even if the council doesn’t or can’t.