Why the RLA is supporting Karen Buck’s Homes Bill
The Homes Bill (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) will receive its second reading on Friday.
Tabled by Karen Buck MP, it gives tenants the power to take their landlord to court if their homes are deemed not fit for purpose at the start of, and throughout, their tenancy.
So why, I hear you ask, would the RLA support moves that could see landlords end up in court?
Quite simply because, as a landlord, the homes you are providing should be fit for people to live in. Here we run through the key elements of the Homes Bill and what they mean.
It doesn’t introduce any new obligations.
The standard is already effectively in place, via the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. (HHSRS)
It also offers protection to landlords by making it clear that should ‘unfitness’ be caused by the tenant’s actions, then the landlord won’t be liable.
The Homes Bill extends to all housing tenures.
Councils, housing associations, private landlords and build-to-rent will be on an equal footing.
Moreover, the Homes Bill gives council tenants a route to enforcement that is currently unavailable. Councils cannot take enforcement action against themselves, and are often reluctant to act against social housing. If the Bill is passed social housing tenants will be able to access direct enforcement of housing standards.
It provides an alternative route to enforcement.
The Homes Bill is not just social housing where regulations are under-enforced.
Local authorities have cut back in areas like environmental health spending in recent years, leaving little capacity to prosecute criminal landlords.
Unless a council takes action, there is very little recourse for tenants, even when backed by organisations Shelter or Citizens Advice.
Such criminals rely on avoiding prosecution in order to continue exploiting tenants.
Now tenants, with suitable backing and proper evidence, will be able to take direct action to raise standards and help force the worst elements out of our sector.
Could my tenant report me maliciously?
The Bill still requires a landlord to be notified of any disrepair, and have an opportunity to carry work out – and tenants must allow landlords access to homes to inspect them.
Tenants cannot simply instigate court action, they need hard evidence, and the courts will very quickly deal with vexatious or malicious cases.
There will be time for landlords to adjust
The Bill will initially only apply to new or renewed fixed term tenancies after it is implemented.
It will then apply to periodic tenancies 12 months after the bill comes into force, giving landlords time to ensure properties are up to standard.
Do I have to do anything?
No. You just need to continue providing good quality homes for your tenants.
Written by John Stewart