Closing the Gap

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill now has government support

This is a private members bill proposed by Karen Buck MP to try and address the growing housing crisis, where 4.7 million homes in the UK fail to meet the decent homes standard.

Currently section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act requires landlords to keep in repair the structure and exterior of their properties and to repair installations for the supply of water, heating and sanitation, but does not go as far to say that landlords can only let properties that are fit for human habitation.

Section 8 of the Landlord and Tenant Act which requires landlords to only let properties which are fit for human habitation is no longer workable.  Section 8 only applies to properties with an annual rent of £52.00 or less outside of London and £80 or less in London.  Those rent limits have remained the same since 1957 and are therefore no longer relevant to today’s market rents.

The new bill proposes to remove the current rent limits and ensure that all properties are fit for human habitation at the time of letting and kept in that condition throughout the tenancy.  In determining whether a property is fit for human habitation regard should be had as to whether the property suffers from any Category 1 hazard’s as set out in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.  Category 1 hazards can include exposed wiring, dangerous or broken boiler, bedrooms which are very cold, a leaking roof, mould on the walls or ceiling, infestations of pests or vermin, broken steps at the top of stairs and lack of security due to badly fitting doors or problems with locks.  The obligations on landlords are therefore likely to be more onerous than those currently set out in S11 and offer tenants living in squalid and unfit housing conditions greater opportunity to take direct action against their landlord.

The bill has the support of government and both landlord and tenant organisations.  It is hoped it will be in force later this year or early next year.

Until then tenants can bring claims against their landlord if their landlord fails to carry out repairs, which have been reported to them, within a reasonable period of time in breach of their S11 obligations or those express obligations set out in the tenancy agreement.  In those situations the tenant may be entitled to compensation.  The courts can also order the landlord to carry out the repairs.

Tenants living in properties which are in serious need of repair should seek specialist legal advice.  CEL Solicitors have a specialist Housing Disrepair Team who can offer advice and assistance on a “no win no fee” basis.