On Friday 19th January 2018, Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Private Members’ Bill will have its Second Reading in Parliament.
Why is this Private Member’s Bill needed?
According to the latest English Housing Survey, 16.8%, approximately 797,000 households, of private tenanted properties have Category 1 HHSRS hazards, these are classed as a serious risk to the occupiers’ health. There are a further 243,000 social tenanted properties which have Category 1 HHSRS hazards.
That means that over a million homes in the social rented sector and private rented sector have at least one Category 1 hazard, affecting approximately 2.5 million tenants, including children.
This Private Member’s Bill revives a clause which exists in an old piece of legislation, requiring homes to be ‘fit for human habitation’ at the start of the tenancy and to remain so throughout. Extraordinarily, this is a not a protection currently enjoyed by any renter – social or private – in England.
Landlords have responsibilities to do repairs under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), and from April 2018 Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), but there are omissions including, for example, damp and mould caused by the structure of the building. Landlords have to repair the structure of their property, and keep in repair the heating, gas, water and electricity installations, but this only applies where something is broken or damaged.
What does the Bill do?
The Bill aims to complement existing local authority enforcement powers, by enabling all tenants – no matter what tenure they live in – to take action. .
The central aim of the Bill is to make rented homes ‘fit for human habitation’ and applies to all areas of a building ‘in which the landlord has an interest’, including communal areas.
The Bill text reflects the list of 29 hazards from HHSRS, which avoids creating two parallel standards for conditions. This means that additional regulations will not be placed on private landlords (as these are standards they should already be meeting), and as a result the Bill has support from the Residential Landlord’s Association (RLA) and the National Landlords Association (NLA).
The Bill would empower tenants giving them the right to take their landlord to court if they fail to take action to resolve a problem. This is particularly important for local authority tenants, who currently have no truly effective means of redress over poor condition.
Link to the House of Commons research briefing: