Time to contact your MP – Homes Fit For Habitation

As I may have reminded you once or twice already (and no doubt will again), the second reading of Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill is on 19 January 2018.

This is a private members bill. It is very rare for private bills to become law, mostly because of the limited time available for debate in Parliament. It makes it very easy for any single MP opposed to a Bill to ‘talk it out’, by taking up all the available time. You may recall that just that happened to version 1 of this Bill in 2015.

In order to prevent this at the second reading of the Bill, we need 100 MPs to be present. This is the number needed to force a vote, so that the Bill can’t be ‘talked out’ and can proceed.

Private Members Bills are debated on Fridays, when many MPs are not at Parliament. This means that MPs will have to be particularly encouraged to attend the second reading on 19 January 2018.

I’ve prepared a short briefing on the Bill, setting out why it is necessary and important, and what it does. Please feel free to use this and to circulate it around organisations and individuals.

Above all, please contact your MP to tell them why you think the Bill is needed and to ask them to attend on 19 January. If you aren’t sure, you can find your MP here.

Shelter are also running a petition in support of the Bill. You could sign that too…

I make no apology for going on about this. It is a relatively simple change to the law, but one that could have significant and lasting effects. It is too important to be allowed to be filibustered out.  Some one million rented homes in England, social and private, have category 1 HHSRS hazards, amounting to a serious risk to health.

About Giles Peaker

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.
Posted in Assured Shorthold tenancy, assured-tenancy, Disrepair, Housing law - All, secure-tenancy and tagged .

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: It’s the 21st century: homes should not be unfit for human habitation | Red Brick

  2. I have, and continue to point out to the LA properties that I know about with category 1 hazards. They insist on dealing with them on an informal basis because they have to build a proper, evidence-based case when acting formally. That and their entire enforcement department is made up of one individual.

  3. I’m sure this is very important and I’d like to see better quality homes for those of us who rent whether we are council or social housing tenants or private renters. But for those of us in private renting it all comes at a price — literally.

    This well-intended Bill by Karen Buck is flawed. Private renting in London is hugely expensive and very few homes are rented out for less than the housing benefit cap. The private rented homes available are what I would call slum accommodation — exactly what this private bill hopes to address. Improving these homes merely pushes their market value up.

    We live in a market housing economy, something this Bill fails to mention.

    But what about the sitting tenants — those pre-1989 tenants with controlled rents? If a landlord improves a controlled, rent-capped tenancy above a certain standard then the rents are un-capped. In other words, tenants are no longer protected by the controlled rent system. Rents rise.

    Those of us in the private rented sector have a choice: live in a slum, rough it on the street, or move far away to somewhere cheap away from friends, family, established community and work.

    The crisis of housing in London is not slum accommodation: it is lack of truly affordable housing. There is plenty of property. There is no need to build on the green belt. There are more than enough empty investment properties to house the rough sleepers and hidden homeless in. London’s financialised housing market means building more homes increases confidence in the property market and keeps the prices up.

    The rental system first and foremost needs rent controls. Buck’s Bill does not ask for that because Labour does not care for controlling landlords’ profits.

    Bring in rent controls, build more council homes at social rents and don’t allow right to buy. Post-war Labour had it right. We need to return to that, not be supporting Bills that improve quality but drive rents up.

    • Linus. First off, we can’t solve the housing crisis in one private members bill. In fact there is a lot we can’t do in a private members bill, including anything that would cost the Govt money.

      We can’t do retrospective legislation – in principle no legislation is supposed to be retrospective – so we can’t deal with existing tenancies. Thus no rent act tenancies will be affected. Not a single one.

      And the suggestion that we shouldn’t have homes fit to live in because it will put the rents up is laughable. The argument that we shouldn’t do anything about housing conditions because otherwise slum lords will stop letting to the people that they currently let to is an argument usually made by slum lords. It isn’t true. It has turend out not to be true every time they have made it.

  4. This will not benefit tenants one iota but it will be very lucrative to some of the legal profession.

    • Thank you for your reasoned criticism. Actually, in many cases, it will be straightforward for tenants to bring a claim by themselves. I can only presume that for some reason you don’t want them to.

    • Giles, then please state why it won’t put rents up. You don’t refute what I’m saying you just say “it’s laughable”. I’m not laughing. Please explain why.

      I acted as a volunteer advocate for sitting tenants at the Rent Assessment Panel in central London and had to deal with this issue of rents going up as a result of improvements (I was briefed by a housing adviser who could not attend the hearing).

      But most people in assured or assured short-hold housing don’t have much protection from market forces. People search around for cheap accommodation not because they like slums but it is all they can afford.

      My argument is you need to bring in rent controls first then improve homes. The major cause of homelessness is the end of a short-hold tenancy, very often due to eviction for rent arrears.

      Please explain why improving market housing stock won’t put rents up. And please put it in your briefing note.

    • It is wholly unrelated to rent act tenancies. Those are at well below market rents, so carrying out improvements is a deliberate way to escape the rent controls imposed by statute.

      No rent act tenancies will be affected by the Bill, not a single one.

      If it were the case that requiring private properties to meet fitness standards put the rent up, then that would have happened with the introduction of the Housing Act 2004. Or mandatory licensing of HMOs. Or any additional or selective licensing schemes.

      The properties will still be at the bottom of the market. Just less dangerous.

      I agree on the ending of tenancies issue – if it were possible to do in a PMB, we would also tie fitness to the retaliatory eviction provisions. But that is beyond the scope of a PMB. One for DCLG to address.

      I am delighted to see that the issue of unfit properties is so pressing that it can await the arrival of the unicorn of rent controls.

  5. Who’s side are you on? – The Past or the future

    Tenancy rights are weak.

    You really want to discuss quality of life based on rentals, ownership and leasing.

    This issue is a human right that has been undermined from the get go with fractious attitudes and media division

    My MP knows what I’m doing and has stayed clear of me and this bill from the get go.

    Karen Bucks MP’s well intentions might be flawed but it is an essential start – I am living a disgusting situation and I am fighting for all my fellow residents.

    You seeing a great deal from a London perspective I have lived across the country and places you would expect to offer decent homes are not.

    Im in a place with expansion in homes and infrastructure and healthy profit expansion and yet allowing growth to cripple existing public services.

    There is a hidden crisis throughout the entire housing sector and no matter the suppression it will happen.

    Inadequate building planning, regulations, standards and maintenance are creating homes that are dangerous and or unfit for purpose.
    So many parties are involved in a practice that uses the term “it meets Building Standards” as a get out clause to enjoy corrupt practices.

    Your points are valid and I am a lay but the future without such a bill will promote further modern slums. That will continue to cripple public services.

    Because no matter what the public (the Taxpayer) ends up footing the bill for blatant poor building practices that place site workers residents and so many more at risk.

    You should be looking more at the MPs that ignore and do nothing and will never be scrutinised – because no one actually backs the people such as MP Karen Buck.

    Who is standing up for those too ill, apathetic or ill equipped to do so.

    I commend her love for the people and for this country meanwhile those that say ‘what can you do’ given the choice turn around in the same breath with ‘its not my responsibility’,

    Unfortunately a great deal are NO MATTER THEIR STATION and might not know it until its too late.

    I just want to put across the power of positive action and dialogue

    Thank you for reading my comments

  6. Pingback: Tessa Shepperson Newsround #28 - The Landlord Law Blog

  7. So no logical argument why this would protect tenants better than existing laws.
    Follow the money. Who benefits from this?

    • Winston, there are plenty of arguments why it is better for tenants than existing laws. Some are in the briefing. Which you apparently haven’t read.

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