Fitness for Human Habitation: The countdown begins…

Today, Parliament published the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standard) Bill ahead of its Second Reading next week. The countdown has officially begun. This time next week, we will know whether the Bill has progressed to the next stage or not.

For the Bill to pass, it’s crucial that 100 MPs attend the debate next Friday. If they don’t, just one MP could block the Bill. This happened to a previous version of the ‘Fitness’ Bill in 2015 and we definitely don’t want to see it happen again.

Why we’re supporting the Bill

We are supporting the Bill because, simply put, it will help to make rented homes safer. There are far too many rented homes, around one million properties in both the private and social sectors, that currently pose a serious risk to the health and safety of the people living in them. Under the current system, it’s too easy for landlords to ignore the concerns of people who rent. Time and again our services provide advice and support to people who rent whose rights have been neglected and who are being forced to live in unsafe homes.

Without a meaningful way of compelling landlords to take action on dangerous conditions, people who rent will continue to be put at risk. This Bill gives them the tools to do that. They will have the right to take their landlord to court where the property is not fit – they will be able to apply directly to the Court for an injunction to compel a landlord to carry out works, or for damages (compensation) for the landlord’s failure to keep the property in good repair. In the worst cases, people who rent will be able to apply directly to the court using their own evidence, such as photos of severe mould or hazards.

The tragedy of Grenfell Tower was not only the most terrible example of what can happen when we let unsafe conditions go unaddressed, but it highlighted how easily the voices of people who rent can be neglected. Residents in the Tower repeatedly raised safety concerns which were ignored, and they then had no further options or routes to redress.

This is the experience of people living in social housing up and down the country who raise legitimate safety concerns, only to be ignored or wait years for any action to be taken. This Bill provides social renters with a new avenue for enforcement against social landlords. As the results of the legal review of  housing health and safety legislation found, this enforcement mechanism is currently lacking and the Fitness Bill will help to fill an obvious gap in the law.

What we’ve been doing

Since we last wrote about the Bill, we’ve been campaigning hard to get the message out to MPs about the Second Reading. Before Christmas, we asked our supporters to send their MP a ‘Save the Date’ card. An amazing 7,000 cards were sent to over 500 MPs.

This week we handed in our petition to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. We were joined by Karen Buck, the MP for Westminster North, who introduced the Bill and will be leading it through Parliament. An incredible 44,582 of you joined our call for the government to back the Bill and ensure it passes in to law.

We’re yet to hear from the government on whether it will lend its support, but there’s still time and we remain optimistic.

Karen Buck MP with Save the Date card

What’s next

With only a week to go, it’s now more important than ever that we get the attention of MPs. If 100 of them don’t feel compelled to attend, this vital Bill might not go through.

Yesterday we launched a tool for you to check if your MP is planning to attend the debate and tweet them a message, depending on the answer. We’ve already tweeted over 400 different MPs and have had numerous positive responses, confirming they are attending.

  • Help us get the attention of your MP – tweet your MP now and ask them if they’ll be attending the Second Reading.