Government backs Bill giving tenants powers to sue landlords for unfit properties

by Property 118

11:41 AM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

Government backs Bill giving tenants powers to sue landlords for unfit properties

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Government backs Bill giving tenants powers to sue landlords for unfit properties

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, announced yesterday his Government’s support for new legislation proposed under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19.

The Private Members’ Bill brought forward by Labour MP, Karen Buck, includes giving tenants the right to take legal action over the habitation standards of private rental property.

The Bill had previously been defeated in Parliament by conservative MPs, but was reintroduced by Karen Buck after the Grenfell Tower disaster in London.

However, in a complete turn around, The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government has decided it will help the Labour MP to draft the Bill.

Sajid Javid said: “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.

“However, public safety is paramount and I am determined to do everything possible to protect tenants. That is why government will support new legislation that requires all landlords to ensure properties are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action if landlords fail in their duties.”

Under existing powers local authorities can already fine landlords up to £30,000  for renting unsafe or substandard accommodation and from April councils will also be able to issue banning orders for repeat offending landlords.

The Bill is looking to give more powers to tenants to force landlords to fix category one health and safety hazards or take legal action against landlords if these hazards are not fixed. Examples of the types of hazards include leaking roofs, exposed or overloaded wiring, damp, badly fitted doors etc.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19 is expected to have its second reading debate on Friday 19 January 2018. The summary of the Bill states it is 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; to amend the Building Act 1984 to make provision about the liability for works on residential accommodation that do not comply with Building Regulations; and for connected purposes.

Please Click Here to see full details of the Bill drawn up so far.



Comments

Sami Houmrani

12:14 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

I would have thought they already have the right to sue? Local authority powers to deal with landlords who rent out unsafe of substandard accommodation already exist to some extent with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System - which was introduced by the Housing Act 2004 – which gives councils the right to assess whether a property contains potentially serious risks to the health and safety of the occupants.

Mike

14:22 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

If tenants expect 5 star accommodation, then they must expect to pay even higher rental charges. Recipe for more homelessness.

Luke P

16:07 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Mike at 15/01/2018 - 14:22
Many tenants do not want to lift a finger or add to the property in any significant way. I'm not saying that they *have* to, but they can't expect to sit on their hands and have the landlord create their 'dream home' around them all for standard market rent.

Grumpy Doug

16:37 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

Interestingly also includes social and council housing.

Clint

16:56 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

From experience, the main tenants that will be suing landlords will be those on benefits as they tend to get legal aid and in most cases is a win win situation for the solicitor and barrister acting for the tenant as they get paid whether they win or lose. If the they lose they get paid from public funds for acting on behalf of the tenant and if they lose, they get paid by the Landlord and these costs generally run in thousands.

Heather G.

19:54 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

RLA have said they support the bill which surprised me. I have published the following on another forum.
I am struggling to understand why councils cannot afford to implement standards or pursue rogue landlords (or tenants). I attended Croydon's Landlord Forum last week where they gave out figures for their scheme to date.

Property Licensing Application Team 10 staff for processing (so why did it take 54 weeks for me to get my license, and 2 years for another attendee?)
Inspection of Licensed Premises - 3 staff
Compliance Environmental Health - 1
Enforcement Officers - 2
HMO Team - 7
Complaints EHO/Enforcement - 10
Intelligence Housing Enforcement Assistants - 2
Total of 35 staff.

They had received 30,694 applications from 15,000 landlords up to Nov 17 and had processed 25,000 of them. They estimate that there may be 32,000 licensable properties in the borough so there are very few properties yet to apply.

From April to Nov '17 they had done 3,205 inspections (400pm) of which 207 needed enforcement action and 337 had licensing conditions issued. They issue 200 Enforcement notices pa.

If 50% of the fees were at the discounted £350 and 50% at £750 that would have brought in £16,881,700. If the average wage of staff is £35K x 35 staff x 5 years the bill would be £6.125 million - where's the other £10 million going?

They have had 2006 new applications between April & November which would equate to 34 weeks (59 pw) processed by 10 staff (5.9 each pw) so they are processing just over one per day per head. No one I know has had an inspection or even a phone call. If private businesses were this inefficient, we'd all be out of business (or fired!)

There is already plenty of legislation covering the provision of fit and proper homes by fit and proper people, this should be extended to the rest of the industry, not just the PRS. If enforcement is the issue, make the councils become more efficient, not place more of a burden on an already heaving court system.

Until the law levels the playing field between landlords & tenants, I can't support the idea of a tenant being able to take us to court for taking time to fix something, or not fixing it to their liking (especially when they could prevent workers from entering the property), when they can trash our properties, upset our neighbours, refuse to pay rent and then refuse to leave. Until the police and courts take tentants' breaches of contract, ASB and debt/costs seriously, the scales will continue to tilt further into the tenants' favour and against us. And don't get me started on the possibility of retaliatory/vindictive claims from rogue tenants! We are already seeing "ambulance chasing" for things like not issuing certificates/documents in time.

Sami Houmrani

20:46 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

However, it will still need at least 100 MPs to vote in support to ensure that it is not “talked out” by any backbench opposition. Ms Buck previously attempted to introduce this Bill in 2015 but it lacked Government support and was talked out by Conservative backbench MPs. Subsequent attempts to introduce the measures as amendments to the Housing & Planning Bill in 2016 also failed.

John Mcgowan

21:20 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Heather G. at 15/01/2018 - 19:54
Unquestionably the licensing schemes are very poor value for money and seem to be a money making scheme for councils and jobs for the boys and girls to keep the establishment strong and finances robust at the expense of good landlords. Only a few substandard landlords are forced to improve the property conditions. The scheme apparently targets bad landlords but no such scheme targets bad tenants. Why is this ? It's quite a mystery that tenants who setup cannabis factories are no longer chased down by the police. Furthermore property wreckers and tenants who don't pay their rent, council tax and utility bills are not chased and prosecuted either despite owing thousands of pounds to landlords and other organisations.

Michael Holmes

23:36 PM, 15th January 2018
About 9 months ago

I have been around long enough to see the results of ever increasing socialist regulation, during the 60’s and 70’s, rented property was like gold dust due to the Labour inspired rent acts. It was only when Maggie brought in ASTs that rented property became available in any quantity because owners/landlords could recover their properties relatively easily without risking the dreaded sitting tenant. Gradually, this is being eroded again, especially with the loss of the 10% wear and tear allowance and the section 24 debacle. If the government wants us to improve our properties, it is a funny way to go about it. Increasing our tax liabilities and tightening up all round on lending criteria is a recipe for a mass exodus from the PRS.
Telegraph readers will know about the 2000 Care and Nursing Homes that have closed down in the last 15 year’s. Nearly entirely due to over-regulation and very low profit margins. They wheel out the usual idiots to try and explain it all, but we all know what is what in reality


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