Today could be a big day for those of us who rent our home, although you may not know it.
The MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck, has put forward a private member’s bill “to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1986 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation".
You read that correctly. It is not currently illegal to rent out a property which is unfit for human habitation in England in 2016. Not on is it?
Today is the day when MPs debate the Bill, which means they effectively decide if this should be passed into law or killed dead.
I cannot think of a single sensible reason why we would allow anyone in this country to rent a home which does not meet basic standards. In case you think that wouldn’t happen in this day and age, according to the government’s English Housing Survey, one in six private rented homes contain a hazard that is a serious risk.
As someone who runs a website that enables tenants to review properties they’ve rented, I see reports every single day of mould, damp and infestations that sound so Dickensian I can hardly believe they come out of 21st Century Britain. But they do.
Making it illegal to rent out a property that is unfit to live in needs to become law. The fact we don’t already have robust laws in place to protect tenants gives you an idea of how far the needs of renters have fallen off our collective to-do list.
With the number of renters the highest they’ve been since the 1970s, we also need to be racking the nation’s collective brain to meet the multiplicity of challenges facing the private rental sector. I see so much rhetoric coming from politicians around getting more people on the housing ladder, but very little about making sure those of us who have no choice but to rent are able to do so safely and securely.
We can no longer behave like this is someone else’s problem, waiting for government and policy makers to make the wholly inadequate private rental system fit for purpose. We need to acknowledge that the system isn’t working and galvanise tenants, entrepreneurs, private companies, and technology start-ups to shake-up a sector that is spectacularly under delivering, while continuing to lobby MPs to keep the needs of this country’s nine million renters higher on their list of priorities.