The British Government is planning further measures against rogue landlords to give tenants in the private rented sector and social rented sector rights to take legal action if their home is unfit for human habitation.
The new measures, proposed by MP Karen Buck in a Private Members Bill, will give tenants another route to take their landlord to court if they don’t ensure their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout.
‘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,’ said Housing Secretary Sajid Javid.
‘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,’ he added.
Javid explained that the measures will fit in with the range of powers being given to local authorities enabling them to crack down on the minority of landlords who rent out unsafe or substandard accommodation. This includes 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.
The Government has worked with Buck to draft and publish the Private Members Bill on Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability of Housing Standards) which will ensure that all landlords must only rent their property if it is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout.
It mean that where a landlord fails to do so, the tenant has the right to take legal action in the courts for breach of contract on the grounds that the property is unfit for human habitation.
Local authorities already have powers to deal with landlords who rent out unsafe of substandard accommodation. Where a property does contain hazards, local authorities have strong powers under the Housing Act 2004 to require that landlords make necessary improvements to a property.
Where a property contains potentially serious risks to the health and safety of the occupants, the local authority must take appropriate action requiring the landlord to reduce or remove the risk.
The Government has brought forward a whole suite of measures to make sure local authorities effectively tackle rogue landlords who let unfit properties, including civil penalties up to £30,000, with the local authority able to keep the proceeds to fund enforcement.
Rent Repayment Orders have been extended to cover illegal eviction, breach of a banning order or failure to comply with certain statutory notices and £12 million has been made available to a range of local authorities with acute problems with rogue landlords, resulting in the inspection of over 70,000 properties and more than 5,000 landlords facing further action or prosecution for breaking the law.
Councils can also introduce a selective licensing scheme allowing them to target enforcement action where private rented housing in a particular area is suffering from or causing specific problems.
From April 2018 there will be a new database of rogue landlords and property agents convicted of certain offences along with the introduction of banning orders for the most serious and prolific offenders.