Two bills to combat unscrupulous landlords are due to have their first readings in the House of Commons today.
Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, is introducing the bill ‘Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation)’.
The bill aims to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 so residential rented accommodation is ‘provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation; and for connected purposes’.
Betsy Dillner, director of Generation Rent, said: “Private renting has doubled in the past decade but legislation has not caught up with reality. Millions of people face the prospect of renting privately their whole life but they have very little protection from unscrupulous landlords and agents letting out substandard homes.
“Karen Buck is a tireless campaigner on housing and understands what needs to change for private renters. She has our full support and we hope her bill will finally bring private renting into the 21st century.”
Dame Angela Watkinson, Conservative MP for Hornchurch and Upminster, is introducing the bill Local Government Finance (Tenure Information). This will amend the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to allow for the collection of information about tenure and the details of private landlords.
Under the current law, when new occupants move into a house they are obliged to notify their local authority to establish council tax payments. The form doesn’t ask the tenure of the property, where it is rented, who the landlord is and what their contact details are.
The bill would allow councils to capture details of a property’s tenure and details of the landlord, if it was a rental property, on the council tax registration form.
Tenants are already legally entitled to know the name of the landlord when signing a new tenancy agreement. Through tenants disclosing this to the local authority it will make it more difficult for criminal landlords to avoid being identified.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said that where a tenant is unable to identify their landlord this would provide local authorities with a signal that there may be deliberate evasion. Action could be taken by identifying the owner of the property through the Land Registry.
RLA chairman Alan Ward said: “The RLA welcomes and strongly supports Dame Angela’s bill. This bill sends a powerful message to criminal landlords that you can run but you cannot hide.
“It will be more effective than a landlord register, or licensing, in identifying rented properties.”
The first reading stage of a Bill is formal, with no debate. The sponsoring MP then nominates the date for the next stage second reading, to take place. The second reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the bill.