Q. IF YOU could have your own private members bills for the benefit of the housing market with the local district, what would it be and what would you wish to achieve?

A. Not all legislation which hits the statute books is as a result of Governments manifestos pledges or changes as a result of sudden catastrophes.

A small proportion comes from what are called Private Members Bills.

One such bill passing through the house at present is the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill introduced by Karen Buck, MP in July 2017.

Its second reading was on January 19, and will now be passed to the Committee stage.

What precisely is this and what is the relevance in today’s housing market?

The Bill ensures:

• that all landlords (both social public including housing associations / local authority housing departments and private Landlord sector) must ensure that their property is fit for human habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and throughout and

• 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

Indeed, the Housing Secretary Sajid Javid added:

“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. 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.”

To illustrate, only recently, we had an example of a water leak under a kitchen floor where we were unable to identify precisely where the leak was originating, nor could we gain access.

As a result I requested that alternative accommodation was provided as the house was not habitable, though this did take some persuading with the insurers.

However, I could very easily see that some Landlords could have taken a different view and kept their tenants resident despite the health issues.

The problem with the existing Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is that whilst this requires landlords to undertake repairing obligations, it does not mean that Landlords need to maintain the same level of standard it was at the beginning of the tenancy.

Hence, a fitted kitchen may go 30 years with odd repairs though it never gets replaced as this is not a repair.

The same goes for the general décor of the property, which means over time properties can become run down and unsafe.

We have all seen the unsightly front gardens of some properties, the abandoned cars on the drive, which lets the neighbourhood down. However, the new bill will not address failing on the parts of tenants who can and do contribute to the problem due to their not care less attitudes for which Landlords cannot always be held responsible.

Like all legislation, it requires an enforcing body behind it for example Trading Standards.

However, these bodies with less funding are finding it extremely difficult and expensive to effectively police.

You also need to be guaranteed a successful conviction, otherwise enforcing agencies including Local Councils maybe deterred to take action.

In effect what this means is that whilst the intentions can be seen as positive, should the Bill pass through Parliament it is important that successful action is taken.

Returning back home, I wonder what property related Private members Bills we would wish to introduce locally as all too often we complain behind closed doors.

The old BT advert used to say ‘it’s good to talk’ and it’s only by dialogue that things hopefully improve for the better.

What are your thoughts?

Please continue to send in your letting related questions to steven@sawyersestateagents.co.uk