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Housing and Planning Bill may need amending after horrific tower block blaze

The fire that engulfed a 24-storey tower block in west London yesterday, tragically killing several people when flames tore through the building, may raise questions over whether an amendment to the government’s Housing and Planning Bill is required.

The Labour party tried to pass through a law that would require private landlords to make their homes safe and “fit for human habitation” in January last year – but it was rejected in Parliament by 312 votes to 219.

The London Economic pointed out yesterday that according to Parliament’s register of interests, 72 of the MPs who voted against the amendment were themselves landlords who derive an income from a property.

But the reality is that the amendment may now need to be scrutinised following the blaze that broke out yesterday at the Grenfell Tower in the Lancaster West estate, near Ladbroke Grove.

Residents from the tower block reportedly warned of potential safety problems several months ago. In fact, an action group from Grenfell Tower are believed to have written a warning in which they said the building could be a fire risk, adding that ‘only a catastrophic event will expose’ the issues, the Independent reports.

Teresa Pearce, the shadow housing minister who proposed the amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill in January last year, said at the time that renters lacked “basic consumer protection” when things went wrong.

“The majority of landlords let property which is and remains in a decent standard. Many landlords go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently,” she said.

“So it is even more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices.

“Where else in modern day life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would or was unsafe I would take it back and get a refund.”

The government insisted that it wanted to avoid “unnecessary regulation” in the law. 

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