Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill

13:49 PM, 31st October 2017, About 5 years ago 27

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The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill is a private members Bill sponsored by Westminster North Labour MP Karen Buck.

It presented to Parliament through the ballot procedure on 19 July 2017 as a first reading not having yet been subjected to any debate and is due to have a second reading debate on the 19th January 2018.

The summary states the purpose 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.”

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

To follow the progress of the Bill on the Parliament website click here.

Currently under the deregulation act 2015 provision is made to suspend the operation of section 21 in order to protect a tenant against retaliatory eviction.

Retaliatory Eviction occurs where a landlord takes steps to evict a tenant because the tenant has complained about the condition of the property, rather than carry out repairs.

The new process means that the tenant has to put in writing to the landlord his/her complaints about disrepair. The landlord has 14 days to respond to the tenant, setting out when they will access the property, look at the remedies and carry out repairs.

If the tenant isn’t satisfied and the landlord hasn’t carried out the repairs, the tenant can make a complaint to the local housing authority. Local councils have been given the power to serve an enforcement notice on the landlord, setting out “a reasonable timescale” for improvement works to be carried out. Landlords served with an Improvement Notice cannot issue a section 21 within six months of an enforcement notice being served.


Gary Nock

22:33 PM, 31st October 2017, About 5 years ago

And will this apply to local authorities and housing associations? No. Thought not. Labour Party / Momentum Class War Anti Landlord Rhetoric dressed up as "helping the JAMS"

Old Mrs Landlord

9:08 AM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Gary Nock at 31/10/2017 - 22:33
According to the Law Society Gazette the legislation is intended to apply to both private and social landlords.

Tobias Nightingale

11:58 AM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

First off unless I am mistaken (someone tell I am) but given all the requirments properties in effect do have to be fit for human habitation if not technically perhaps?
Secondly what I find laughable about labour claiming properties do not have to be fit for living in, if true what the hell where they doing for 13 years in the DCLG and labour generally not making legally binding they have to fit for living?
Thirdly If a property was so bad given the choice range why did the tenants decide to let the property if it was so bad?
Fourth given renting property is seen as a investment on that basis in theory there should be no standards or regulations and the landlord surely would just have to pay the tax? But no it is regulated like it is a business but then denied to be a business as well.

Mandy Thomson

15:27 PM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

There's a helpful article on Nearly Legal here.

The obvious questions that come to mind, which Nearly Legal addresses are:
(1) Isn't there already legislation covering housing safety standards and
(2) Don't tenants already have recourse to the law where safety is breached

The answer to (1) is that tenants have no legal redress against something unless it is in disrepair; they don't have a redress against potential issues. So for example, if a Victorian property with single skinned walls is leading to damp and mould, the tenant can only raise it with the local authority if and when there is actual damp - if there is no damp and mould present at the time, they can't. Another example is Grenfell. The residents raised concerns about the cladding (as a design flaw) long before the fire, but because the cladding had not as yet caused an issue, they had no legal redress.

This brings us to (2); tenants can presently only complain via their Environmental Health officer who may or not pursue their complaint. Roughly half the complaints made against private landlords are followed up, only a handful made against housing associations are, and none made against local authorities themselves (as landlords) (surprise, surprise).

Unfortunately, many of the complaints EH officers have to deal with are made by vexatious tenants (trying to find an excuse to withhold rent or delay an eviction), which takes up the precious time of these already stretched public services. The bill would give both public and private tenants the right to take their own legal action.

Adam Hosker

16:03 PM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Mandy Thomson at 01/11/2017 - 15:27
"have no legal redress against something unless it is in disrepair"
Good? unless something is in disrepair why would anyone want to take action against there landlord. I dont get the point.

"don't have a redress against potential issues" I must have immagined that they have cost free access to EHO and can end up with removal of "no falt possession", rent repayment orders and even may result banning orders for the landlord.

As for Grenfell - bad example. A fire officer signed off on building materials. That was because the extent of the risk was unknown. It did not highlight a fire risk to EHO as it would do today.

"The bill would give private tenants the right to take their own legal action" that does not sound cheap to defend those complaints "made by vexatious tenants" . Its no wonder a housing lawyer wants these changes, his pockets are about to get heavier.

Adam Hosker

16:07 PM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Tobias Nightingale at 01/11/2017 - 11:58
Yes Tobias. Properties do have to be "fit for human habitation" under current rules, what we have is useual propergranda from the people that say "lettings is unregulated". Which we know is nonsence the RLA listed once over 300 statutory requirements on a landlord - the main one for "human habitation" is The housing health and safety rating system ( HHSRS ).

The extent of HHSRS was they once told a landlord - they had to remodel the garden as it had some bumps in the grass which was a trip and fall hazard.

Mandy Thomson

17:02 PM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

Had the bill been law at the time the Grenfell cladding was fitted, instead of their complaints falling on deaf ears (as the body they had to complain to WAS the landlord), the residents would have had their concerns addressed.

"the extent of the risk was unknown" - according to the BBC, the cladding would have released 43.2 MJ/kg of heat whereas the European standard for "limited combustibility" is 3 MJ/kg.

It is clearly mostly council tenants who would benefit from this bill, though I can see it having a round about benefit for private landlords as well as environmental health departments may be less willing to entertain complaints where the tenant can't prove they've given the landlord a good chance to put it right first.

Giles Peaker

20:35 PM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

Hi all. A bit amused by some of the reactions. Mind you, the Gazette article wasn't entirely clear about what we are doing with Karen's Bill.

The thumbnail version is:

The Bill will amend sections8 to 10 of Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 make it an implied term of all tenancies, social and private (that start after the Act is in force) that the property is fit for habitation at the start of the tenancy and will be kept fit for habitation throughout the term. In that it will work in a similar way to section 11 - the repairs section.

What will count as 'unfit' is where there is a category 1 risk under the HHSRS - defined as a serious risk to health. This is exactly the same system and standard that Local Authority Environmental Health use for Housing Act 2004 inspections and enforcement.

There will be no new standards. This is the standard that private landlords are ALREADY supposed to meet.

The difference is that currently i) tenants can't enforce these standards, only Local Authorities can, and ii) Local Authorities can't, as a matter of law, enforce against themselves, so council tenants can't even go to their EHOs to get things sorted.

Why is this worthwhile? Well, as well as council tenants not being able to do anything, housing association and private tenants are at the whim of their Local Authority. The figures on enforcement levels by councils are hugely variable, but many, many councils do little or nothing. For example, one London Borough - Newham - accounted for 70% of standards enforcements in all of London and 50% of all enforcements in England in 2015-16.

The HHSRS standards encompass risks well beyond disrepair. Take, for example, fire safety. A property can have huge fire safety risks without being out of repair by section 11 criteria.

Like s.11, the duty will extend to any part of the building in which the landlord has an interest - so would encompass all of a block of flats if landlord owns the block, for example. So tenant could take action on fire safety issues in common parts or fabric of building.

As an implied tenancy term, the tenant can take action if it is breached, to have it rectified.

There will be exceptions from the obligation - sensible ones. So, no liability if the lack of fitness is due to the tenant. No obligation to remove a risk if the works required would be impossible without a superior landlord's consent and that has been refused. No obligation to remove a risk if the works would be in breach of a statutory or regulatory requirement (eg Listed Building, planning permission etc.).

There are about one million rented properties in England with Category 1 hazards - 25% social, 75% PRS. That is several million people living in properties with a severe risk to health.

So, there we are - no new obligations, no new standards. As far as I can see, the only landlords who could object are those who are already in breach of the existing standards requirements.

Hope this clears things up. Karen has the support in principle of the major landlord bodies, by the way.

By the way, the Bill doesn't tie this to retaliatory eviction provisions in the Deregulation Act. It is beyond what we can do in a private members bill. Nor as things stand would a court finding a lack of fitness as landlord's fault result in a banning order offence under Housing and Planning Act - that would be up to the government.

On the Grenfell thing - the concerns the tenants raised before the fire didn't include the cladding - but did include fire safety issues in the communal parts, the fire protection of the gas pipes installed in the refurbishment and the functioning of fire alarms and emergency lights, none of which would have fallen under section 11, but would under this Bill. I make no claim whatsoever that this would have prevented Grenfell, but it does address some of the issues of the landlord failing to respond to tenants' safety concerns that have been made clear by the disaster.

Alison King View Profile

21:04 PM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

I think if it encouragea tenants to report issues sooner then good. Who wants to learn that their property has leaking tiles when it's already damaged the property and too late to fix without considerable expense ?

Giles Peaker

21:10 PM, 1st November 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Alison King at 01/11/2017 - 21:04
Very true - though that would already fall under section 11.

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