Bringing our housing up to standard

According to the latest English Housing Survey, over a 150,000 homes in the North West are in a condition that pose a serious risk to the occupiers’ health.Liverpool houses

This shocking figure has been highlighted by my colleague Karen Buck to support her Private Members Bill that would force landlords to act, and make every home fit for the people living there.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill has won government backing after a long battle from Labour to force action.

It is possible to make a difference.

Hard-pressed councils across the North West have been able to ensure that just 4 per cent of their housing stock falls below standard, while 6 per cent of housing association stock needs improvement, but an astonishing 22 per cent of private rented homes fail to meet even the basic decency threshold.

Currently, and extraordinarily, landlords have no obligation to their tenants to put or keep the property in a condition fit for habitation.

There is an obligation on the landlord to repair the structure of the property, and keep in repair heating, gas, water and electricity installations. However, the duty does not cover things like fire safety, vermin infestations, inadequate heating, or poor ventilation causing condensation and mould growth. There are a whole range of ‘fitness’ issues, which seriously affect the wellbeing and safety of tenants, about which tenants can currently do nothing at all.

The new Bill will give tenants a right to take action in the courts when a landlord fails to let and maintain a property that is fit for human habitation.

It has won the backing of Shelter, Citizen’s Advice, Generation Rent, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the National Housing Federation, the Residential Landlords Association and the Law Society.

However, while government support for this measure is welcome, it has to go further to make the rented hosing sector work for every tenant.

For instance, the government should back Labour’s proposals to legislate to make three year tenancies the norm in the private rented sector.