Conservative MPs have voted to reject a proposed rule that would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation”.
The vote, which came on Tuesday night, was on proposed amendment to the Government’s new Housing and Planning Bill – a raft of new laws aimed at reforming housing law.
The Labour-proposed amendment was rejected by 312 votes to 219, however.
According to Parliament’s register of interests, 72 of the MPs who voted against the amendment are themselves landlords who derive an income from a property.
Communities minister Marcus Jones said the Government believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.
“Of course we believe that all homes should be of a decent standard and all tenants should have a safe place to live regardless of tenure, but local authorities already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality and safe accommodation and we expect them to use them,” he said in a reply.
Teresa Pearce, the shadow housing minister who proposed the amendment, said renters lacked “basic consumer protection” when things went wrong.
“The majority of landlords let property which is and remains in a decent standard. Many landlords go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently,” she said.
“So it is even more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices.
“Where else in modern day life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would or was unsafe I would take it back and get a refund.”
But the Government claimed the new law would result in “unnecessary regulation”.
The proposed amendment reflects the contents of a private members bill blocked by Conservative MPs in October last year.
That bill, proposed by Labour MP Karen Buck, was “talked out” by backbenchers, including Conservative MP Philip Davies, who is himself a landlord.
During that debate he warned that landlords “appear to be an easy target for the Left in this country”.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill would have updated a law introduced in the 19th century that requires homes under a certain rent limit to be “fit for human habitation”.
That rent limit has not been updated since 1957, however, and the rule currently applies to all properties with an annual rent of below £80 in London and £52 elsewhere.
The weekly average weekly rent in London is currently £362 and practically zero properties currently fall under the legislation.
The Government’s housing bill includes provisions for starter homes, the right to buy for housing association tenants, higher rents for higher income social tenants, and some changes to speed up the planning system.
According to Parliament’s register of interests, the 72 MPs who are registered as deriving income from property of over £10,000 a year and who voted against the law are:
Simon Kirby (teller)
Anne Marie Morris
Sarah Newton (teller)
One MP's name was removed from this list after publication as his rental income is derived from a share in a medical practice rather than a residential property
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