On Friday 19th January, my colleague Karen Buck’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19 will receive its second reading in the House of Commons. The Bill seeks to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation.
This Bill is long overdue. While the majority of landlords provide decent homes that tenants are happy with, there is currently no established minimum standard for private renters.
Instead, tenants are reliant on over-stretched council environmental health teams to stamp out dangerous homes, rather than being able to take matters into their own hands. This Bill will enable tenants to themselves take legal action against landlords who fail to maintain rented homes to a safe standard.
Since the tragedy at Grenfell, I have repeatedly raised the issue of tower block safety in Parliament and Lewisham Council have carried out safety checks in blocks throughout the borough. This is of course at great expense to the Council, and still, no Government funding has been offered.
I recently questioned Sajid Javid whether the Government was attempting to bankrupt councils, which you can watch here.
Last year, Conservative MPs voted against a similar Labour amendment to the government’s Housing and Planning Bill, designed to ensure that all rented accommodation was safe for people to live in, which was defeated by 312 votes to 219. Speaking at the time, the local government minister, Marcus Jones, said this would result in “unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords” that would deter further investment and push up rents for tenants.
At the General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged a consumer rights revolution for renters to bring private renting into the twenty-first century, by introducing minimum standards to ensure that rented homes are free from serious faults such as unsafe wiring and appliances, problem damp and vermin. It also promised to name and shame rogue landlords and introduce tough fines for those who fail to meet minimum standards.
After seven years of failure on housing, I am pleased that the Government have chosen to back the Bill. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the debate on Friday, due to several longstanding constituency commitments, though many of my Labour colleagues will indeed be present and I fully support the Bill which I believe will create a more robust, secure and safe private rented sector.