Have you heard of the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill?

I’ve said it a million times before, anything that drives out rogue landlords and increases the standard of accommodation for tenants is alright by me. I believe setting minimum landlord standards will determine the wheat from the chaff and eventually, rid the property market of unscrupulous landlords cashing in on less than knowledgeable tenants. Okay, rid might be a stretch but it will certainly make life a lot more complicated for them.  

It is reported that around 1 million rented properties are unfit for human habitation. The result of that is that around 3 million people – many of which are children – live in an environment that presents serious risk to their health and safety. That figure is simply scandalous. Substandard homes cost lives. You only have to look at the Grenfell disaster for evidence of that. It was a catastrophe in fire safety at an unprecedented level. Anyone watching the media coverage of fire will have those images ingrained in their memories for a long time to come. It was reported that the residents had raised fears about fire safety but they were not addressed, and they had no legal means of pursuing their concerns. I don’t think anyone would argue with legislation that prevents devastation at this level from ever occurring again.

So faced with conditions not fit for habitation, what can tenants do? Well if they are the result of disrepair, then they can raise this with their landlord. But issues like inadequate heating, poor ventilation and fire safety are not an obligation of a landlord. If they have good advice, tenants can approach their local authority and ask for action but in reality it is the vulnerable and powerless that are not capable or aware of how to deal with these types of problem and are therefore living in properties that are unfit for habitation.

Add into the mix that local authorities (who always have tight budgets) will only investigate and address a few cases, and you have lives in danger. The RLA stated recently that they had evidence showing only half of complaints raised with local authorities are looked at. If every single uninhabitable homes raised a complaint, that’s still 500,000 home or 1.5 million people living in poor conditions. In this day and age, I just don’t see a need for it.

Luckily, MP Karen Buck is proposing a bill (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability of Housing Standards) that allows a tenant to take action against a landlord to make right unfit housing, or claim compensation if they don’t. Of course, there is concern that this will cause an influx of spurious tenant complaints but realistically, any validated complaint should be addressed. Plus my understanding of the bill is that tenants need to raise their complaint formally and allow a decent amount of time for a response, before they could proceed to court.

Currently, the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) details the legal obligations of a landlord. The new bill does NOT replace this or add any new standards or regulatory burdens on landlords. It seems instead, it’s asking for better enforcement of the existing laws and regulations, and the opportunity to hold rogue landlords accountable for not meeting HHSRS standards.

Certainly some of the good landlords I speak to are frustrated that new legislative measures being introduced only penalise those conscientious landlords. If the bill can tackle the minority of the sector that bring disrepute, then it can only be a good thing.  

Alan Ward, Chairman of the Residential Landlords Association said, more intelligent regulation and better enforcement of what is already there, should be welcomed.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more. What do you think? Let me know on Facebook, by email or call me for a chat on 07944 726676.

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