Fitness for Human Habitation: Another milestone in the long road to a decent private rented sector

In another sign of the growing importance of the renters' movement in the UK, government announced over the weekend that it would be supporting measured outlined in Karen Buck MP's upcoming private member's bill, which would allow private and social tenants to take legal action against their landlord where their home is not deemed 'fit for human habitation'.

Ahead of its second reading in parliament on Friday, the bill was published last week and has had mass support from across the country, with housing campaigners demanding that MPs support the bill and take this opportunity to give renters better redress where conditions are poor.

As with all private members bills, there was some uncertainty over whether it would progress to the next parliamentary stage, which would be reliant on at least 100 MPs attending the debate.

Now that it officially has government support, we can be confident that the measures will be taken forward and Friday’s reading allows an opportunity for parliament to hear once again why it is so important.

Karen Buck has herself today outlined what is now a familiar story of dangerous conditions for renters, with the English Housing Survey identifying one million households (75% of which are in the private rented sector) that have a hazard that is a serious risk to the tenant’s health.

Resources at local authority level to enforce against poor conditions remain inadequate, and only a tiny minority of these homes have ever been subject to action by environmental health.

Within this context, it is vital to ensure that tenants have greater legal remedies at their disposal, as a means of driving up conditions in both the social and private sectors.

The changes in the bill will not improve housing overnight, and they are only part of what must be a wider set of reforms to ensure that everyone lives in a safe home.

But their introduction, after years of campaigning from groups and individuals, shows that renters can collectively bring about change.

And by empowering renters with a new tool too act against landlords, we hope this legislation will signal a step change in how the sector is regulated, moving towards a new scenario where renters are able to assert their rights.

Getting to that stage will take further and wider action, but today we should recognise what we can achieve together, for a future of decent housing depends on us.


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