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Tenants set to be handed power to sue landlords over property conditions

Tenants look set to be given more powers to take action against rogue landlords renting out properties “unfit for human habitation”, following a key vote by MPs.

The Homes (Fitness) For Human Habitation Bill had its third reading in the House of Commons on Friday, and was passed without division.

The private members bill, which would apply in England and Wales, will now be considered by the House of Lords.

The bill, tabled by Karen Buck MP, would give renters in the private and social rented sector the power to take their landlord to court if their homes are deemed not fit for human habitation, at the start of, and throughout, their tenancy, thus enabling tenants to take legal action if basic standards are not met.

Private tenants can currently take action against their landlords where their property is in serious disrepair, but not when the property is unfit. However, that looks set to change.

The proposed legislation will change this by requiring all leases to have an implied covenant stating that landlords must ensure their properties are inhabitable at the start of the tenancy and throughout occupation. Tenants would be able to seek legal redress through the courts, without having to first go through their councils, if landlords fail to do this.  

It is also worth pointing out that under the proposed legislation, negligent landlords would be required to remove hazards or pay compensation to tenants.

According to Buck, about 750,000 homes in the private rented sector and 250,000 in the social rented sector have category one hazards.

The MP for Westminster North said: “Living in a cold, damp, or unsafe home is hell. It damages people's physical and mental well-being.

“It erodes the income of the poorest households. It impacts on children's education.

“The most vulnerable tenants are those most at risk of being trapped in sub-standard accommodation and they are often least able to withstand the damage such conditions do."

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 allowing councils to be to able to issue banning orders to kick the worst offenders out of the business. 


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