What has become evident following the #Grenfell tragedy earlier this year, is that although tenants may have entirely valid concerns about the safety of their properties, there are no obligations on their landlords, within the current legal system, to ensure those concerns are properly addressed.
Whilst there are mechanisms for tenants to enforce requirements to carry out repairs (s.11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) or to take action where there is a statutory nuisance (s, 79 and 80 Environmental Protection Act 1990), in both cases there must already be an issue present. The mere threat of one is not enough and there is currently no requirement on landlords that is enforceable by tenants, to ensure that properties are free from health and safety hazards.
Twice in the last two years @UKLabour have attempted to bring a change into the law to give tenants a way to ensure that their homes are fit for human habitation: both the private members bill proposed in 2015 by Karen Buck MP and the suggested amendments to the new Housing and Planning Bill in 2016 were blocked by the sitting Government.
Impact of #GrenfellTower
The outrage and horror following #Grenfell has led to a revival by Karen Buck of her private members bill. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill should be uncontroversial as it merely seeks to ensure that a now redundant requirement that homes be fit for human habitation (under s.12 Housing of the Working Classes Act 1885) is brought back into use. S.8 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 tied this repairing obligation to limited rents but as rents have risen over time, those rent limits have been exceeded, rendering the legislation meaningless. The Bill seeks to remove those rent limits to ensure that the requirement that homes are fit for human habitation is revived for all new tenancies granted after the Bill is passed.
Sufficient safeguards are drafted into the Bill to ensure that landlords will not be required to do works over and above what is reasonable: they shall not for example have to carry out repairs for which the tenant should be properly liable or to carry out works which would require the consent of a superior landlord where such consent has been refused.
If Parliament in 1885 and 1985 considered it appropriate to have such protection under the law, why would the position be any different now? In the wake of one of the worst disasters in recent UK history, one would hope the Bill would be unanimously supported. Unfortunately the history of this matter suggests otherwise.
In 2016 the Communities Minister Marcus Jones said “Of course we believe that all homes should be of a decent standard and all tenants should have a safe place to live regardless of tenure, but local authorities already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality and safe accommodation and we expect them to use them”. It is abundantly clear that this does NOT provide an adequate safeguard but many MPs remain wholly resistant to the idea of regulating landlords and this poses a danger to the Bill.
It is essential therefore that more than 100 MPs attend the second reading of the Bill on 19 January 2018 as any less than that and the Bill could be “talked out” as it was in 2015. More than 100 MPs will force a vote and we can only hope that on this occasion, they do the right thing. We can all help achieve this goal by contacting our local MPs and encouraging them to attend this reading.
YOU CAN HELP!
Below is a template email for you to send to your MP, encouraging them to attend and vote for the bill to pass.
I am one of your constituents living at [insert address]. I am very concerned about the condition and quality of housing in my constituency and across the UK. The tragedy at the Grenfell estate, as well as the problems with the Chalcots and Ledbury estate evacuations, have brought home that there is a fundamental flaw with how the safety of residential accommodation is dealt with in this country.
On 19th January 2018, the second reading of the bill by Karen Buck, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19 will take place. This bill will give tenants of a building power to hold their landlords to account for safety standards. I would urge you as our representative to attend this reading and to support the bill.
I understand that as many people as possible need to attend the hearing to force a vote on the bill, I ask you to attend on my behalf to represent my views on this issue.
Thank you and kind regards,