Tenants look set to be given powers to sue their landlords if their property conditions are unfit for human habitation, following a key vote by MPs.
The Homes (Fitness) for Human Habitation Bill had its third reading in the House of Commons on Friday, and was passed without division. The House of Lords will now consider the private member’s bill, which would apply in England and Wales.
The bill, tabled by Karen Buck MP, would give tenants in the private and social rental sectors the powers to take their landlords to court if their property conditions are deemed not fit for human habitation at the start of, and throughout, a tenancy.
Private tenants can currently take action against their landlords if their property is in serious disrepair, but not when the property conditions are unfit.
The proposed legislation would change this, by requiring all tenancy agreements to include an implied covenant stating that landlords must ensure that their properties are inhabitable at the start of, and throughout, the tenancy. Tenants would be able to seek legal redress through the courts, without having to first go through their local councils, if landlords fail to do this.
Under the proposed legislation, negligent landlords would be required to remove hazards or pay compensation to their tenants.
According to Buck, around 750,000 homes in the private rental sector and 250,000 in the social rental sector have category one hazards.
She insists: “Living in a cold, damp or unsafe home is hell. It damages people’s physical and mental well-being. It erodes the income of the poorest households. It impacts on children’s education.
“The most vulnerable tenants are those most at risk of being trapped in sub-standard accommodation and they are often least able to withstand the damage such conditions do.”
The Government has already introduced a range of powers for local authorities, which enable them to crack down on rogue landlords that let unsafe or substandard rental housing.
This includes being able to fine landlords up to £30,000 and allowing councils to issue banning orders to the worst offenders.
Last week, MPs also discussed making it a legal requirement for lenders to take tenants’ rent payment history into account when assessing their credit scores.