Jen Durrant, Policy and Campaigns Officer
Karen Buck MP’s crucial Private Member’s Bill – Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) – has finally gained support from government.
At Z2K we help those of our clients who are homeless and single – those without access to statutory support – to find and secure quality, safe accommodation in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). While this is a life-changing service for those we support, our limited capacity means it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the huge numbers of people who are still struggling to live without a decent home.
Although homelessness (including those in emergency and temporary accommodation as well as rough-sleeping) remains the most acute and damaging issue in the current housing crisis, there are also widespread problems for people in social or private rented housing.
Many people who manage to find somewhere to rent are still forced to put up with shockingly awful conditions, from excessive mould and damp to a complete lack of heating or ventilation. Living in such substandard properties poses a serious risk to people’s health. It can also damage children’s educational performance and wellbeing, greatly impacting on their future life chances.
What’s more, this is not an unusual situation reserved for an unlucky few. While many landlords do ensure they are providing adequate accommodation for their tenants, a significant number do not. The English Housing Survey shows that one million homes have at least one hazard which poses a serious risk to tenants’ health. Of these, 250,000 are social housing and 750,000 are privately rented – meaning one in six of all private rentals are forcing people to live in inadequate conditions.
This new Bill is an opportunity to change that. Instead of simply expecting people to put up with these unhealthy and hazardous conditions, it would require landlords to make their properties fit for human habitation. It would also give tenants the right to challenge landlords who do not deal with hazardous disrepair, by taking them to court. In short, it offers all tenants the right to something which surely everyone deserves – basic living conditions.
Having campaigned for greater tenant rights for years, Z2K is particularly pleased to support Karen Buck in her bid to make this Bill into law. The Bill has already received support from the Residential Landlord’s Association and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Officers. Now, at last, it has gained official backing from the government. This is a testament to the hard work of all the policymakers, tenants’ organisations and charities who have fought for the rights and duties it represents, and pushed this incredibly important issue onto the government’s agenda.
The Bill will have its second reading in parliament this Friday 19th January before proceeding to the committee stage, where each section and suggested amendment will be debated. Z2K will continue to monitor its progress to ensure it delivers on the legal rights Karen Buck and many others have fought for. We will also keep learning from our clients’ experiences about the ongoing issues and pitfalls of the system and continue to challenge those in power.
This Bill may not be the only solution to the housing crisis, but it is certainly a crucial step. With a growing body of support – including now from government – helping it on its way towards becoming legislation, we hope it will continue to progress. At the same time, Z2K will continue working to help those in need access the decent home they deserve.