Breaking News – Housing Safety:
Secretary of State for Housing Sajid Javid Sunday (14 January) has confirmed government support for new legislation that will enable tenants to take direct action against their landlords to help ensure that rented homes are safe. Tenants will be given the right to take legal action when landlords fail in their duties.
Grenfell of course was a tragic testament to the catastrophes that can happen when residents’ safety warnings are not heeded. Ms Buck hopes here Bill will change that in both the public and private rented sector, and the Secretary of State for Housing Sajid Javid, along with the main landlord bodies, is backing it.
The government has already been introducing a range of measures and powers for local authorities which will enable them to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe or substandard accommodation – the rogue landlords.
This measure include local councils 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”.
However says Sajid Javid, “public safety is paramount which is why government will support further measures proposed by Karen Buck MP in a Private Members Bill to protect tenants in both the social and private rented sectors”.
This will give tenants another route to take direction action and take their landlords to court if their landlord don’t ensure their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said:
“Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live. Councils already have wide-ranging powers to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe and substandard accommodation.
“However, public safety is paramount and I am determined to do everything possible to protect tenants. That is why government will support new legislation that requires all landlords to ensure properties are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action if landlords fail in their duties.”
Potential issues with this:
Currently tenants (private or social) have little power by way of recourse to the law to enforce property standards or fitness for themselves.
Tenants in sub-standard housing have to rely on local councils to bring enforcement action following HHSRS inspections under Housing Act 2004, and under Section 11 L&TA 1985 and Section 4 Defective Premises Act 1972.
Councils’ track records vary considerably on their performance taking action on housing safety matters, and with restrictions on council funding likely to continue, some councils will continue to take no action at all.
Social tenants come off even worse than private ones, with housing associations rarely taken to task, and how many councils are willing to enforce action against themselves – against their own council houses?
The problems private actions arise when cases come to court: who decides what is safe and not safety, who decides that condensation is due to a property which is prone to condensation, damp and inadequately insulated, or because the tenant is so cash-strapped she cannot afford to heat the property adequately? Who decides when an electrical system is unsafe because of faulty wiring, or because a tenant has been tampering with the meter?
Judges are not qualified to decide on these matters, so inevitably expert reports are needed, adding considerably to costs. However, for tenants grated legal aid, this is not a problem, for private landlords, it is.
More information here
Commons Library briefing paper here