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Barrow MP will vote to empower tenants

John Woodcock MP

BARROW and Furness MP John Woodcock will vote on Friday to update archaic legislation that regulates the state of rented housing in England and Wales.

He staying in Westminster for the unusual ‘sitting Friday’ – rare days in which the House of Commons is dedicated to considering only bills brought by backbench MPs rather than the government. Usually the House of Commons does not sit on a Friday so that MPs can return home to work in their constituency.

The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 previously provided obligations on landlords to fix their properties at a tenant’s request when they fell into a state of disrepair. However the use of rent caps, set in 1957, have meant that this has not been enforceable for many years.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill, introduced by Westminster North MP Karen Buck, will compel landlords to take responsibility to ensure that homes are fit for human habitation, and maintain this standard throughout a tenancy. The bill would also empower tenants to take court action against landlords if their property were to fall below this standard.

Previously, under the 1985 act, landlords had a responsibility to ensure their homes met a minimum standard, but only on homes up to the value of £52 rent per annum outside London, and £80 within.

Speaking prior to the debate, Mr Woodcock said: “It’s baffling that the rights of tenants have been stifled by inaction for so long.

“It has been years since the average annual rent was £52. To think that this antiquated law has remained on the books for this length of time is bizarre. More seriously than that, it is needlessly creating a serious risk to people’s physical and mental health.

“The state of the housing stock in large parts of Barrow is quite frankly appalling. Over forty per cent of privately rented homes fail to meet the minimum standard. I cannot allow my constituents to continue to be subject to arbitrary, out-of-date laws that allow landlords to take advantage of them. I fully intend to continue to support Karen Buck and this bill as it continues through parliament.”

Currently, the system used to determine whether a home is fit for human habitation, the housing, health and safety rating system, is considered to be arbitrary in its implementation as it allows for the discretion of the inspectors.

It is estimated that around 27 per cent of homes in the private rented sector do not meet the required safety standards. This stands against 20 per cent of owner-occupied housing, and just 13 per cent of social housing.

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