Last week, on Thursday, 14th December a memorial service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral to mark 6 months since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, to remember those that lost their homes, their loved ones and even their lives.
The service was very moving and was an example of London at its best. It was attended by people who had lived in or around the tower, people that had lost loved ones, members of the wider community, people of all faiths and none, politicians, pop stars and Royalty.
The Bishop of Kensington, the Rt Rev Graham Tomlin said “In years to come, our hope is that the name of Grenfell will not just be known as a symbol of sorrow, of grief or injustice but a symbol of the time we learnt a new and better way – to listen and to love”.
Six months on from the tragedy, the public inquiry is underway but the purpose and scope of the inquiry is limited and will not, in itself, lead to the changes in the law that are necessary to prevent such a tragedy occurring again.
Shortly after the tragedy I wrote an article highlighting the gaps in the current law that result in tenants often being left without a legal remedy against their landlord given the current limitations in the law.
Private Members Bill on property fitness for habitation
Since then Labour MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck, has introduced a private members bill – the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill. This was previously talked out by opposing MPs when Ms Buck last proposed this bill in 2015. The tragic events of Grenfell brought to the forefront how many people are living in sub-standard accommodation, how limited their rights are and how important it is that these issues be addressed by the government.
The bill hopes to introduce a change to the law whereby all rented accommodation, whether owned by the council or private landlord, must be maintained in a state that is fit for human habitation and to allow for enforcement of this right by tenants.
Both public and political mood has changed following the tragic events of Grenfell and hopefully on this occasion the bill will be passed.
Timetable for Private Members Bill
The second reading in Parliament will take place on Friday 19th January 2018. The minimum number of MPs needed in Parliament to force a vote is 100. This will ensure that the bill cannot be talked out by an opposing MP.
Although this bill is a small step towards filling the gaps in housing law, it is a step in the right direction. In order to ensure that it proceeds to becoming actual law, it is really important that we all contact our local MPs and encourage them to attend Parliament on Friday 19th January 2018.