Labour would act now to change the private rented sector so that it works for all – landlords and tenants
Today Labour has called a debate in the House of Commons that is about the right of everyone to a decent home at a price people can afford. The central question for the debate is a simple one. How do we ensure that the private rented sector provides homes that are sufficiently stable and secure, affordable and of a decent standard?
Labour believes that the private rented sector has an important role to play in meeting housing need. There are, after all, now 8.5 million people, including more than one million families with children, renting privately. And as a result of the biggest housing crisis in a generation more and more people are being locked out of home ownership and are coming to live in the private rented sector.
Now, we know most people dream of being able to own their own home and we want to see them realise their dreams of home ownership as we did in Government when a million more families were able to buy their own homes. That’s why, before the Autumn Statement, Labour called on the government to use the funds from the 4G auction to build 100,000 affordable homes, bringing forward infrastructure investment, a temporary VAT cut and a bank bonus tax to fund a jobs guarantee for young people. All measures crucial to get Britain building and our economy moving. Building 100,000 homes alone would add 1% to our GDP.
But the fact remains that, at present, more people are finding themselves in the private rented sector and for longer periods of time than in years gone by. We want to see a strong and thriving private rented sector that works for all of them.
However, the evidence shows that all too often renters face being ripped off by unscrupulous letting agents, instability and a lack of security, ever increasing and unpredictable rents, and too many rogue landlords and poor standards. That is why we have called the debate today.
Yes we need a strong and thriving private rented sector to help us meet housing need and tackle the biggest housing crisis in a generation. But it cannot be right that so many people are living in a sector that provides so little certainty about their finances whether it is from excessive fees from letting agents or ever increasing rents. And it cannot be right that too many renters uncertainty and insecurity in their home.
Think of a family, where, having sent their kids to the local school, they cannot be confident they will be able to stay in the same home and keep their kids there because they could be moved on at any time. Or take the landlord from Yorkshire who wrote to me about his letting agent. He told me that the agent planned to charge his tenants, a young couple, £400 just to renew their tenancy agreement and the agent planned to charge him £100 for doing so also. As he pointed out, that’s “£500 for what is a 15 minute job to alter a document.” He said the tenants cannot afford to renew and therefore he was in danger of losing the tenancy. As he put it “this is an example of the rip off charges that these agencies charge and the further pressure that this then puts on the housing market in these tough economic times.”
I couldn’t agree more. That’s why Labour would act now to change the private rented sector so that it works for all – landlords and tenants. We cannot have two nations divided between those who own their homes and those who rent, which is why Labour is determined to find a One Nation solution to the problems associated with renting.
Labour would regulate letting and management agents to ensure tenants, landlords and the reputation of reputable agents are protected. We would also end the confusing, inconsistent and opaque fees and charges regime by ensuring transparency and comparability. We would take action to build a package of incentive for landlords to encourage them to offer families and renters the stability and security they need to by way of longer term tenancies linked to predictable rents so that they can plan their lives, where send their kids to school and manage their household budgets. And we would introduce a national register of landlords and grant local authorities greater powers to root out and strike off rogue landlords that are found to have broken the rules.
Thus far the Government has sat back and done nothing. We hope they are persuaded to vote for our motion today to ensure we have a strong and thriving private rented sector that works for all.
Jack Dromey is the Shadow Housing Minister