The government has taken the unusual step of working with a Labour MP to ensure her Private Members Bill can become law – and with it, give tenants the right to take legal action over the habitation standards of private rental property.
In an unusual announcement the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was helping Labour’s Karen Buck MP to draft a Private Members’ Bill known as the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability of Housing Standards) Bill.
This Bill will ensure that all landlords (both social and private sector) must ensure that their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout, and where a landlord fails to do so, the tenant has the right to take legal action in the courts for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation.
Local authority powers to deal with landlords who rent out unsafe or substandard accommodation already exist to some extent with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, which was introduced by the Housing Act 2004. This gives councils the right to assess whether a property contains potentially serious risks to the health and safety of the occupants.
Where a property contains health hazards, local authorities can use these powers under the Housing Act 2004 to require that landlords make necessary improvements to a property. Where a property contains potentially serious risks to the health and safety of the occupants, the local authority must take appropriate action requiring the landlord to reduce or remove the risk.
Sajid Javid, the Housing Secretary, says: “Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live. Councils already have wide-ranging powers to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation.