Update: Following agreement by both Houses on the text of the Bill it received Royal Assent on 20 December 2018. The Expenses is an Act of Parliament now. Karen Buck’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill 2017-19 is seeking to amend relevant sections of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 by extending its obligations to cover almost all landlords and to modernize the fitness for habitation test. As a complete result of lease limits that have continued to be unchanged because the 1950s, the current requirement of fitness in section 8 of the 1985 Act has ceased, for the most part, to have impact.
Where a landlord fails to let and keep maintaining a property that is fit for human habitation, the Bill would give tenants the right to do this in the courts. The Bill has cross-party support. The Costs extend to Wales and England but is only going to connect with tenancies in England. The Bill had its First Reading in the House of Commons on 19 July 2017 and its own Second Reading on 19 January 2018. June 2018 The Public Costs Committee fulfilled on 20. The Committee decided to 16 amendments without division. This Commons Library paper provides a history to the Bill and points out its provisions and amendments made at Commons Committee stage.
There have been longstanding concerns about property requirements in the private rented sector (PRS). The PRS homes more households in England than the cultural rented sector but has some of the poorest property specifications. The EHS 2016/17 information that 27% of PRS homes failed the good home standard in 2016. The comparative numbers for the owner-occupied and public housing industries were 20% and 13% respectively.
More broadly, the EHS 2016/17 information that, across all tenures, the percentage of non-decent homes dropped progressively from 2006, with year-on-year improvements until 2014, because when the proportion has remained stable. The Grenfell Tower fireplace has concentrated attention on housing specifications in the sociable rented stock, and in privately possessed blocks of flats as well. How come the Bill needed?
There are statutory obligations on most landlords to retain in repair the framework and outside of their properties, and also to repair installations for the supply of water, heating and sanitation. However, provisions requiring landlords to ensure that their properties are fit for human habitation have ceased to have effect as a result of annual rent limits (£52 or less, and £80 or less in London). There are specific issues encountered by tenants wanting to improve casing conditions.
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Local regulators cannot take enforcement action against themselves – this can leave council tenants at a relative drawback if their landlord will not react to the existence of health and safety risks in their homes. Landlords of private tenants may respond to requests for fixes by beginning eviction techniques, this is referred to as a retaliatory eviction.
Commentators also highlight the lack of legal aid for disrepair instances as a hurdle to tenants seeking to improve their housing conditions. The statutory regulation associated with health insurance and safety in people’s homes is piecemeal, out-dated, complex, dependent on tenure, and enforced patchily. It creates obscure distinctions, that have little relationship with everyday experiences of poor conditions.