Landlords will have to take a more professional approach to managing rental property if a bill before Parliament becomes law.
The Homes (Fit for Human Habitation) Bill is awaiting the last stage of debate and amendment in Westminster.
Having won government backing, the bill is expected to become law next year.
The law will ensure private and social landlords offer homes for rent without health and safety defects throughout a tenancy.
The Bill proposes amending the current implied covenant for a landlord to ensure that the dwelling:
is fit for human habitation at the time the lease is granted or otherwise created or, if later, at the beginning of the term of the lease, and will remain fit for human habitation during the term of the lease.
This obligation must be maintained throughout a tenancy, from the start date until the tenant checks out.
It is proposed that when determining if a property is fit for human habitation, any matter or circumstance amounting to a hazard under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System may be considered although if, and only if, it is so far defective in one or more of those matters that it is not reasonably suitable for occupation in that condition.
When passed, the Act will extend to England and Wales although the primary changes for the time-being apply only to England. Wales have consulted on fitness for human habitation and are in the process of introducing changes.
Compliance means detailed inventories on check in and check out, plus an audit trail of repairs and maintenance during the tenancy.
If the law is broken tenants can take the landlord to court and claim damages for breach of contract.
Proposed as a private member bill by Westminster North Labour MP Karen Buck, the bill has been championed by housing ministers at the Department of Communities and Local Government.
“Private tenants can take action against their landlords where their property is in serious disrepair, but not when the property is unfit to live in,” said Buck.
“If the boiler has broken down, a tenant has rights. If the property is riddled with damp and mould because of the design of the building or type of windows, they don’t.
“Three million people live in homes which are unsafe and unhealthy, with long-term trends towards improvement levelling off in recent years. We know that the poorest and the most vulnerable, those with the least power, are the most likely to be trapped in substandard accommodation.
“A clear legal path through which to challenge bad landlords is just one measure in what needs to be basket of policies and investment to improve housing stock and given tenants more rights, but it is an important one.”
The bill goes before the House of Commons on October 26.