A law passed in 1985 means that, currently, it’s the responsibility of local authorities to investigate complaints into substandard conditions of rental properties. However, a new law that comes into force next month means that, going forward, tenants will have the right to sue their landlord under some circumstances.
This follows decades of a lack of restriction on landlords, which has left thousands of tenants living in cold, damp, or unsafe homes in the UK. With budget cuts to local councils, the rules on living standards have been poorly enforced. This has allowed some landlords to, as a cost cutting measure, not keep up with repairs properly.
The new bill will give these tenants the right to take their landlord to court. The judge will be allowed to issue an injunction that would force the landlord to carry out the necessary work to make the property habitable. Landlord will have to meet certain standards throughout the tenancy.
Furthermore, the standards will, for the first time, include problems that exist at the start of the tenancy. For instance, problems caused by poor design that lack of ventilation or infestations of vermin. Some of the other issues tenants can take action for include repair issues, damp, water and drainage issues, and sanitary problems.
According to the charity Shelter, “the bill will help private and social renter’s voices to be heard, by giving them the right to take their landlord to court over unfit and unsafe conditions like these in their home.”
In an interview, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added: “The Fitness for Human Habitation Act will give all types of renters the power they need to tackle bad conditions – which is why Shelter campaigned hard for it to be passed as law.”
“With more and more families renting privately, we desperately need more protections and security for renters.The act will help enforce best practice for landlords and agents, act as a deterrent for bad behaviour, and provide a legal lever for renters to pull if their landlord isn’t complying.”