A Bill with the potential to have a big impact is quietly making its way through Parliament on its way to being enshrined in law. The Homes Bill (presented by Labour MP Karen Buck) was initially defeated by Conservative MPs but in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster (in which 71 people were killed), the Bill has had a second airing. It now has full government support and is being drafted with the assistance of The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Its adoption could have the following implications for both landlords and letting agents.
Tenants will have the right to pursue legal action against their landlords if their property is unfit for human habitation. While there are some doubts about the resources of vulnerable tenants being able to fund such actions, there is a possibility that groups of lower income tenants could band together to take action against landlords with multiple properties on their portfolio.
If tenants choose not to pursue their landlords through the courts, they will now also have the right to demand their landlord take remedial action to resolve the issues they’ve raised.
Although ultimately every tenant has the right to expect a property fit for human habitation and this basic human right is something previously tackled under the 2004 Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), the Bill goes much further towards making vague concepts enforceable. 29 of the hazards outlined on the HHSRS have made it into the Bill, which will be applicable across all rental properties (currently the HHSRS cannot be used against local authority landlords), making it stronger and more effective.
The scope of the Bill is wider too – it includes all areas of a building “in which the landlord has an interest”, which means that for the first time communal areas will be subject to the same stringency. This should be of particular interest to block managers and landlords who own units in buildings with multiple properties as they could find themselves liable for an area that neither they nor their tenant have ever set foot in.
It’s not just landlords who may find their burden of responsibility and accountability widened under the new Bill – lettings agents who fully manage properties could find themselves in the firing line if properties do not meet the criteria laid out by the Bill. And even if they escape direct liability, they could feel a knock-on effect on their revenue stream if landlords find themselves having to make huge improvements, or choose to decrease the size of their portfolios.
At the time of writing the Bill is about to be debated at Committee Stage. After careful analysis, it will then be returned to the House of Commons for discussion, where, given the support surrounding it and the high profile procedural failings at Grenfell Tower, it will be likely be passed. Although it could still be subject to change at either stage and little more can be known about at this stage, one thing is for certain. It’s been a legislative-heavy start to the year for the lettings market and agents who aren’t keeping up could risk being left behind.
For more on the ramifications of this Bill and the details that surround it, why not download our free eBook, A Quick Guide to the Fitness for Human Habitation Bill, by clicking here or on the image below.