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RLA supports new measures to improve the safety of tenants

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) has expressed its support for new legislation that will help ensure rented homes are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action when landlords fail in their duties.

The government last week expressed its support for the proposal put forward in the Commons by Labour MP, Karen Buck, which suggests that tenants should be given the right to take legal action against any landlord that offers a property that is not ‘fit for human habitation’ – a move that has been welcomed by the RLA. 

RLA chairman Alan Ward said: “While the vast majority of landlords provide properties which are safe, legal and secure, there is a minority that brings the sector into disrepute. That is why the RLA is supporting Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability of Housing Standards) Bill.” 

The government has already introduced a range of powers for local authorities enabling them to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe or substandard accommodation.

This includes being able to fine failing landlords up to £30,000 and from April this year councils will also be able to issue banning orders to kick the worst offenders out of the business. 

“We have also a perverse situation whereby councils will take action against landlords in the private sector while tenants living in sub-standard property owned by a council or housing association are unable to obtain the same rights,” said Ward. 

He added: “Karen Buck MP’s Homes [Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability of Housing Standards] Bill helps to address this and it is one of a number of reasons why the RLA supports the legislation.”

Ward points out that the Bill does not place any new standards or regulatory burdens on landlords that they are not already legally obliged to meet under the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

Ward explained: “This does not end the pressing need for the HHSRS to be updated, with guidance especially needing to be updated to make it easier for everyone to understand.

“In fact, the requirements to make a house fit for habitation were already in the law when the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 passed and they replicated rights first created in the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1885. They only ceased to be effective because a very low rental limit was placed on these obligations. This new Bill therefore resets the position to that which was originally intended.” 

Ward also highlights the fact that the Bill seeks to achieve better enforcement of existing laws and regulations against the rogue operators.

He continued: “With poorly resourced councils not doing a proper job at the moment of enforcing the rules, good landlords are being undermined by the criminals who bring the sector into disrepute.

“This Bill ensures parity in all rental markets, giving tenants in both the private and social rented sectors the opportunities to hold to account those landlords providing accommodation that is not up to scratch.

“This is not a charter for spurious tenant complaints. Tenants would first need to raise their concerns with their landlord and provide sufficient time for the landlord to respond. Only after that could the tenant go to court, and even then the court would need to be satisfied that the concern raised by the tenant was genuine and that it was not related to a problem of their own making.” 

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