Jeremy Corbyn tried to pass through a law that would required private landlords to make their homes safe and “fit for human habitation” last year – but it was rejected by the Conservatives.
Labour proposed an amendment to the Government’s new Housing and Planning Bill – a raft of new laws aimed at reforming housing law – in January last year, but it was rejected by 312 votes to 219.
Although the law doesn’t directly pertain to the tower, it did highlight fundamental flaws in Britain’s rental sector, such as the ones outlined by residents of the tower in the months and years leading up to the event.
According to Parliament’s register of interests, 72 of the MPs who voted against the amendment were themselves landlords who derive an income from a property.
The amendment will surely now be scrutinised after a London fire in the 27-storey residential Grenfell Tower in North Kensington claimed a number of lives and resulted in multiple casualties.
Residents had previously complained that only a catastrophic event would expose the ineptitude and incompetence of the landlord and “bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders”.
Teresa Pearce, the shadow housing minister who proposed the amendment in January 2016, said at the time that 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.”
The Government claimed the new law would result in “unnecessary regulation”.