Tenants to sue landlords over substandard properties!
Yes, that’s right. Last week MPs voted in favour of a Bill that could give tenants the ability to sue landlords over poor housing conditions.
The Government supports The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill and MPs voted unanimously to pass it. It now moves to the Committee stage, where a detailed examination of its obligations takes place.
The details as known
If made law, the Bill would 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”. The Bill extends to England and Wales but will only apply to tenancies in England.
Why is the Bill necessary?
An outdated legal framework
The law at the moment relating to health and safety in people’s homes is widely regarded as piecemeal, out-dated and complex.
The current legislation under section 8 of the 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act requires most landlords to keep their properties in good repair, including the supply of water, heating and sanitation. But annual rent limits (£52 or less, and £80 or less in London) means that for most tenants, the provisions of section 8 don’t apply.
Increasing concern about standards
A survey in 2015/16 found that the private rented sector has the highest proportion of homes (40%) in England that have at least one indicator of poor housing conditions. What’s more, 28% of privately rented properties failed the decent home standard in 2015.
In July last year, I blogged about the rise in retaliatory evictions by landlords, following requests by private tenants for repairs to be carried out. This, combined with a lack of resources (be it lack of legal aid, private finance or the wherewithal of how to go about it) makes it very difficult for some tenants to insist on basic improvements to their living conditions.
It makes for a bleak picture for tenants in some areas of the country. But whilst unsuccessful attempts to amend the current legislation have been made a number of times recently, the devastating events at Grenfell Tower last year, have rightly brought the issue of housing firmly back into the spotlight.
What’s your view?
Of course, full details of what may eventually become law aren’t known. But the Residential Association of Landlords (RLA), National Association of Landlords (NLA) and Shelter have expressed support for the Bill.
As do many landlords. After all, a lot of landlords provide perfectly suitable and well maintained rental properties and the Bill does nothing more than state what they are doing already.
However, in November last year you will recall I wrote about the rise in spurious claims by tenants against their landlords and there will always be an element of concern that for those with such intent, this is one more weapon to beat their landlords with.
Overall, however, my view is that this reform is a force for good. Anything that clarifies and simplifies the current legislation should be embraced and to be a successful landlord, you should always be trying to maintain high standards for your tenants.
I’ll keep you posted on any amendments and on the Bill’s progress through Parliament but if you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment.
Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking
He’s bought and sold a lot of properties over the years and is also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.
Multi-award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.
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