Tenants will be able to sue their landlords for cold or damp homes under new laws that will come into force next month.
If a property owner does not carry out necessary repairs or maintenance, the occupant will be able take them to court where a judge can issue an injunction forcing the work to be carried out.
Around one million rented homes, housing 2.5 million people in the UK are not fit for human habitation, according to housing charity Shelter.
Tenants have been left with substandard and often unsafe accommodation in part because a 1985 law made it the responsibility of local authorities to investigate conditions.
With many local councils overstretched due to massive budget cuts, standards have often been poorly or sporadically enforced, allowing some unscrupulous landlords to skimp on the costs of upkeep and repair, leaving tenants to deal with the consequences.
“Crucially, the bill will help private and social renter’s voices to be heard, by giving them the right to take their landlord to court over unfit and unsafe conditions like these in their home,” Shelter said.
Landlords will have to make sure their properties meet certain standards at the beginning and throughout a tenancy. For the first time this will include problems caused by defective design – such as lack of ventilation or infestations of vermin and insects – rather than disrepair.
The new rules also include a so-called Grenfell clause, which allows tenants to take action over common areas in shared buildings.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter said: “The Fitness for Human Habitation Act will give all types of renters the power they need to tackle bad conditions – which is why Shelter campaigned hard for it to be passed as law.
“With more and more families renting privately, we desperately need more protections and security for renters.
“The act will help enforce best practice for landlords and agents, act as a deterrent for bad behaviour, and provide a legal lever for renters to pull if their landlord isn’t complying.”
The number of people renting their home in the UK has increased dramatically over the last decade as buying a house in certain areas has become less affordable.
But UK laws have remained relatively lax on landlords and provided little security for tenants.
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