Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill 2018 – Letter of concern

by Readers Question

10:26 AM, 8th November 2018
About 2 weeks ago

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill 2018 – Letter of concern

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Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill 2018 – Letter of concern

Open letter to Gareth Johnson MP:

Dear Mr Johnson,

There is a lot of support among landlords for the above bill that seeks to provide a means by which tenants in clearly substandard Housing “Unfit for Human Habitation” can bring redress against what would be considered a ‘rogue landlord’ through the court.

As a (responsible) landlord, as you may know from previous correspondence, I have no problem with the aim of the Bill.

From my reading of it, I don’t see amendments or debate clarifying, I’d like to know what safeguards against misuse by ‘Rogue Tenants’, have been considered.

Unfortunately, this is another instance where the consideration or belief is that there are Only ‘Rogues’ on one side of the PRS sector.

There are Rogue or Criminal landlords, but not apparently that anyone acknowledges, Criminal tenants. Numerous acts or even omissions can label a landlord criminal, yet a tenant can never be regarded as such!

Damage, even where it can be demonstrably shown to be malicious, persistent refusal to pay thousands of pounds in rent lawfully due – in fact nothing a tenant does in the PRS is considered a criminal offence, let alone acted upon by the Police or even sanctioned for prosecution by the CPS.

The result of this is various strategies by landlords, from exiting the business (reducing rental stock) to being defensive over tenant selection. The effect of bad tenants on the majority of good tenants is unrecognised.

Whilst landlords have come to expect this perception from the Labour party, we do seek and hope that the Government are alive to both sides of the equation and are providing the necessary checks and balances.

I am of course referring to situations where a tenant is being served with a Section 21 Possession notice and not withstanding the already hugely impact delays (and subsequent costs) of this process cause to a
landlord, a tenant may ‘tactically’ choose to bring a claim for some alleged disrepair under this bill through the courts.

Some claims under the bill have the provision for legal aid (read, even further delays).

My concern is that there appears no early scrutiny and prevention of such claims. Further, that in the event of such a claim by a tenant, I would have little doubt that a court Possession process would be placed on hold – delayed.

I look forward to your serious consideration and hopefully, assistance in this matter.

Your constituent,

Chris

PossessionFriend



Comments

Adrian Jones

9:34 AM, 9th November 2018
About A week ago

I need to replace a gas boiler but the gas supply has been disconnected because the tenant has not paid the bill.

There is no other heating in the property.

Would I be considered as letting a property "Unfit For Human Habitation"?

Steve Masters

10:41 AM, 9th November 2018
About A week ago

My tenant has reported a water leak which I want to repair but the tenant constantly denies me entry.

The property is badly affected by damp.

Would I be considered as letting a property "Unfit For Human Habitation"?

This is not hypothetical, it happened 10 years ago.

Chris Daniel

14:02 PM, 9th November 2018
About A week ago

With the two examples given above, my concern as a landlord of those properties would not so much be whether the court might find in my favour ( eventually ) but how much cost and time delay it might add to any Possession proceedings I had commenced, de-railed by an action brought under this legislation [ especially if further delayed by legal aid funding for the tenants solicitor ]
Is this a potential tool for tenants to legally blackmail landlords over ?

Adrian Jones

15:25 PM, 9th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Chris Daniel at 09/11/2018 - 14:02
Hi Chris. I seem to recall a comment on here a coupe of years ago (Mark Alexander possibly) that the change in Legal Aid rules had almost put a stop to spurious claims by tenants against Landlords.

Chris Daniel

15:48 PM, 9th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Adrian Jones at 09/11/2018 - 15:25
The view of the draftsmen ( Anthony Gold, ) and that of MHCLG is if the defect is considered of serious risk to health or safety,
claims would fall under Schedule 1, para 35 of LASPO

Chris Daniel

15:50 PM, 9th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Adrian Jones at 09/11/2018 - 15:25
What a landlord claims are spurious, and what a tenant may, without much difficulty, convince a court are not - are quite different ( as I'm sure Landlords understand )

Chris Daniel

16:07 PM, 9th November 2018
About A week ago

A snippit of parliamentary comment below, my question - is Karen B 'eating the Elephant a piece at a time' - is there further representations about funding for this ( and possibly other Housing issues ) to come ? ( see #*#*# below )

Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
I welcome this Bill. Everyone should have the right to live in a home that is fit for habitation, and if that is not the case, tenants need the ability to challenge landlords in court. Does my hon. Friend agree that, in tandem with this Bill, we must consider reintroducing early legal advice in housing matters, so that problems can be resolved a lot quicker?

Ms Buck
My hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that, as chair of the all-party group on legal aid, I very much agree with her. Many issues relating to advice and legal aid and other aspects of housing need still need to be resolved if the Bill proceeds.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)
All of us, and our constituents, owe a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend for promoting this Bill and for her perseverance because it is not the first time she has done this. Legal aid is already severely restricted for disrepair. The Government notes to the Bill say that it contains no financial provision—that is probably why they support it—but should we not meet the remedy that the Bill provides with the funds to allow tenants to enforce it?

Ms Buck
#* #* # We expect that tenants whose conditions meet the criteria equivalent to disrepair would be able seek legal aid, and I will be making separate representations about legal aid overall. My hon. Friend and I, and many other Labour Members, feel very strongly about this issue. #* #* #

Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) (Con)
Will the hon. Lady pay tribute to Citizens Advice for its role in assisting 144 families with housing repairs in my constituency? Does she agree that many tenants can get legal expenses insurance through their household insurance, and it is always worth checking insurance policies for that?

Adrian Jones

9:54 AM, 10th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Chris Daniel at 09/11/2018 - 15:50
Quite so Chris, but I think the reduction in Legal Aid meant that solicitors had to be more realistic in deciding whether to take on a tenants case ie were there reasonable grounds.

Adrian Jones

9:59 AM, 10th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Chris Daniel at 09/11/2018 - 15:48
Thanks Chris. The boiler doesn't work, the gas pipe has been capped by a Gas safe engineer and my agent wrote to the tenant saying when he was in a position to have the supply re-instated I would fit a new boiler.

By the way what is MHCLG?

Chris Daniel

19:02 PM, 10th November 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Adrian Jones at 10/11/2018 - 09:59
The replacement of the DCLG,
Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government.

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