A bill requiring landlords and agents to ensure rental properties are fit for human habitation and enabling tenants to chase them for compensation when they don’t maintain them took its second step through the House of Commons on Friday.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill passed its second reading in Parliament during an hour-and-a-half long debate lead by the bill’s sponsor Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North (pictured, above).
Her bill, for the first time, frames what ‘fit for human habitation’ means and outlines the new regulations that agents will have to ensure properties stick to.
Landlords and agents already have to ensure properties are not kept in a state of ‘disrepair’ but now ‘unfit’ will cover issues such as fire safety, inadequate heating, poor ventilation, condensation and mould.
At the moment landlords and agents are only obliged to repair the structure of a property when it’s broken or damaged, but when the bill becomes law most likely later this year, they will have wider responsibilities for the condition of the property.
Fit for human habitation
The debate included contributions from Clive Betts MP (pictured, right), who also chairs the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, as well as Bob Blackman and Lucy Allen. She revealed that her Telford constituency had a long history of “private rental property which had been neglected”.
Karen Buck was praised for her tenacity in bringing the bill to the house, and gaining cross-party support for it. It was also revealed that poor quality housing costs the NHS £1.4 billion a year.
Despite the good cheer, there were several conflicting statements made including that although “the vast majority of landlords act responsibly”, one in six privately rented properties are not fit for human habitation.
“In future tenants will be able to act against landlords to force them to take remedial action, and obtain compensation when they do not,” Karen Buck said during her speech.
During the debate it was said by another MP that the bill was “well balanced because it gives tenants new rights, but also offers safeguards for landlords”.
Read about more debates about property in parliament.
Read the proposed legislation in full.