The return of ‘fitness for human habitation’ – will MPs finally give us this protection?

In ten days time, parliament breaks for the Christmas recess.

When they return in January, they will have an opportunity to support a simple change in law that would provide better protections for renters.

The question is, given that they have missed this opportunity before - will parliament do the right thing this time?

On January 19th, Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill receives its second reading in parliament.

This marks a revival of a bill that the same MP brought forward in the last parliament, providing a new form of redress, by allowing both private and social renters to take legal action against landlords who don’t maintain properties to a good standard.

The previous attempts to bring forward this change – as a different bill, and then as an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill – both failed to overcome opposition in parliament.

Now the bill has been improved, so that it covers communal areas (notably important in tower blocks), and so that it incorporates existing standards on conditions, avoiding concerns around creating a two-tier system on conditions.

We already know that millions of renters live in sub-standard conditions. The tragedy of Grenfell Tower viscerally showed that when concerns of residents were ignored, they were left with no effective means of redress.

After Grenfell, who could argue with making homes ‘fit for human habitation’?

Some will continue to argue against the supposed ‘burden’ of regulation. But the immediate obstacle is that this is a private member’s bill, meaning any single MP can ‘talk it out’, filibustering in the parliamentary chamber until time runs out and a vote is missed.

However, parliamentary rules also mean that this situation can be avoided if at least 100 MPs attend and vote in the debate. MPs often have commitments in their constituencies on Fridays which keep them away from Westminster, so reaching this number can be difficult.

That’s why it’s vital we make the case for this important legislation to our MPs, as any individual could make the difference. We already know that 100s of MPs have been written to, but in this last fortnight of parliament, let’s keep the pressure up.

Please write to your MP today, asking them to back renters and give them a new means of redress where landlords won’t improve conditions.

The status quo is unacceptable and change is now supported by a wide range of organisations and individuals. Let’s urge all our representatives to be on the right side this time.


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