Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 13th December 2017

If there’s one part of the UK’s housing market which is thriving it’s the private rented sector. As councils struggle to replace the social housing lost through decades of Right-to-Buy and young people remain priced out of becoming owner-occupiers, the private rented sector has seen huge growth over recent years.

There’s a place for a private rented sector in the housing market, but it also comes with problems and due to the national shortage of housing brought about by decades of lacklustre building all the power is in landlords’ favour.

Crawley Borough Council does have private sector housing officers try to resolve issues within the private rented sector and at our last Cabinet meeting we approved new powers for officers in dealing with rogue landlords. However, we can only go so far as legislation will permit, which is why we’re now watching the progress of the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill.

The proposed law is a Private Member’s Bill, meaning it’s an individual MP and not the Government who is bringing the legislation forward, in this case Labour’s Karen Buck. The law will, for the first time, require rented accommodation to be maintained in a condition fit for human habitation, giving tenants the right to act if landlords fail to do so.

Doesn’t that seem like the very least a private tenant should be able to expect? Apparently not, because this is the third time Labour MPs have tried to get the requirement onto the statute book, the first attempt was talked out and the second was voted down by Conservative MPs.

So, what are the chances of success this time? Ordinarily Private Member’s Bills have no possibility of passing without Government support due to the majority they can call upon to vote a law down. Yet, as we now have a Hung Parliament, that built-in majority is no longer there. The Bill can pass and it’s up to every MP to search their conscience and for every constituent to let their MP know they believe people deserve homes fit for human habitation.

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