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Stop Student Squalor campaign interviews Jeff Smith MP on student housing conditions in Manchester

  • Jeff Smith, Labour Member of Parliament speaks to Stop Student Squalor on his campaigning for homes ‘fit for habitation’
  • He supports Karen Buck MP, whose yearly campaigning for Fitness for Human Habitation Bill has finally got to the House of Lords
  • Mr Smith shows his support for Stop Student Squalor’s campaign for student homes to be ‘fit for human habitation’
  • He asserts that housing conditions are not the only concern for renters, as he campaigns for three-year tenancies to be mandatory

For unacceptable student living conditions to change, political power is needed. Earlier this year, Jeff Smith, Labour Member of Parliament for Manchester Withington went to parliament to support the ‘Fitness for Human Habitation’ bill introduced by Labour MP Karen Buck.

I'll be in parliament this Friday to support @KarenPBuckMP Bill to give renters a legal right to a home that is 'fit for human habitation' - https://t.co/xPTDLxzrxt pic.twitter.com/8xFvWnXvtO

The bill, long campaigned for by Labour, calls for amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 legislation, making “residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation, and for connected purposes”.

Amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented
accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human
habitation; and for connected purposes. – Fitness for Human Habitation Bill 2018

Jeff Smith spoke to Stop Student Squalor about what his campaigning has done to change the living conditions of tenants in the North West.

“14% of all homes across the North West are currently unfit for human habitation, with some tenants putting up with vermin, infestations and unsafe electrics”

Although legislation does exist that requires homes to be fit for purpose, it only applies to the wildly out of date threshold of £52/week or below (£80/week in London). There is nothing to enforce landlords to provide acceptable living conditions above this figure. This is what Jeff Smith believes is the heart of problem:

“At the root of this issue is regulation. By refusing to regulate the private rented sector, the Government has given bad landlords free reign to let inappropriate and often dangerous properties without fear of reprisal.

Only by giving renters the rights they need to challenge their landlords will the standard of rental properties improve.”

The bill passed its third reading in October with unanimous support from MPs, going through to the House of Lords. Although the very same bill was rejected in the House of Lords by the Conservatives in pre-Grenfell 2016 – quoted as “unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords”.

Jeremy Corbyn condemned the Conservatives for voting it down in the past, showing his support for Karen Buck in getting the bill through the House of Lords.

 

For students currently in an unfit home in Manchester however, there is still little court action they can take up against their landlord. Mr Smith recommends using accredited student homes to ensure renters are secure that their living conditions issues will be rectified:

“I would encourage all students to check whether their landlord is registered with Manchester Student Homes. If they are, MSH will conduct and open and transparent investigation and may offer to mediate between tenant and landlord to reach a resolution.”

However, Jeff Smith not only campaigns for better housing, but also making security of tenancies’ contracts better:

“At the last election Labour’s manifesto included introducing a cap on rent rises at the level of inflation, making 3-year tenancies the norm for renters, and putting in place a new legal minimum standard for all rental properties.  These changes would give renters more security and the rights they need to take bad landlords to court if necessary.”

The Fitness for Human Habitation bill will be scrutinised by the House of Lords on the 23rd of November.

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