Kerry McCarthy and Darren Jones both remained in Westminster on Friday, rather than returning to their constituencies, in order to support their Labour colleague's Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill.
The draft law, which the Government confirmed it was backing during the morning debate, will give renters the legal right to ensure their home is “fit for human habitation”, meaning free from mould, damp and other hazards.
The wording of the bill introduces a “minimum standard” – something that didn’t exist before – which landlords have to meet or else face a possible court date.
Legal recourse, thanks to the Bill’s changes, will become available to close to a third of all Bristol residents, with 29 per cent of city dwellings currently in the private rented sector.
In the past it has been Bristol City Council’s environmental health team’s responsibility to act on rogue landlords but this bill, which passed its first major hurdle in the House of Commons on Friday, will put power in the hands of those paying the rent – the tenants.
Ms McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, said: “Too many people today rent in properties which are not in an acceptable condition, with widespread problems of damp and mould, leaks, failing electrical utilities or poor insulation.
Labour’s Kerry McCarthy was in Westminster to support the privated rented housing standards bill
“Passing this law to ensure housing is fit for human habitation is a crucial step to protect tenants, and it’s remarkable this hasn’t been done before.”
The Labour backbencher said that, while a great many landlords rented out decent homes, there were still “many examples” of landlords letting out unsuitable accommodation which “suffers from damp, mould, leaks, unsuitable insulation levels or other problems”.
She highlighted the case of city landlord Saleem Nazir who, as reported by the Bristol Post, was fined £10,000 by Bristol City Council after he left his Stapleton Road property to rot for so long the toilet sank through the floor.
Saleem Nazir rented out a home on Stapleton Road but left it to rot
Mr Jones, MP for Bristol North West, said: “Many of my constituents in Bristol have to put up with unacceptable quality housing in the private rented sector – lots being old council houses which haven’t been invested in for years.
“That's why I've stayed in Westminster today when I'd normally be in Bristol so that I can support this new law. I'm thrilled that the Government has changed its mind [it had twice rejected similar bills] and is now supporting Labour’s private members bill to make it law that homes are to be fit for human habitation, and that tenants can sue landlords if not."
Private members bills – draft laws written and proposed by individual MPs – rarely make it all the way through Parliament without the Government’s support.
MP Darren Jones said constituents had experienced problems with poor living conditions in private rented housing.
The Conservative administration had twice previously rejected private members’ bills similar to that put forward by Karen Buck on Friday, the MP for Westminster North, but current housing secretary Sajid Javid – who grew up on Stapleton Road in Bristol – had a change of heart.
It is the second Labour-sponsored bill that Mr Javid has backed in the space of the week, after he agreed to write into law protections for live music venues against nearby housing developments.
Housing minister Heather Wheeler in response to the debate, said: “There is a need to require landlords to ensure properties are free from hazard and to allow tenants to hold them to account.”
Tenant prosecutions would also free up time for councils to go after the worst offending landlords, the junior minister said, as she gave the Government’s backing for the Bill to pass its second reading.
Source: The Bristol Post