Skip to main content

Private Rented Housing

Volume 502: debated on Tuesday 8 December 2009

We consulted over the summer on our response to the independent review of the private rented sector conducted by Julie Rugg. We received more than 250 responses, and I intend to publish a summary of them shortly.

May I ask the Minister about the next steps? Might they include measures to address the concern that is felt in my area and others that contain a large amount of rented private sector student accommodation?

They may include such measures. My hon. Friend will be aware that we have also consulted on proposals to strengthen local authorities’ ability to deal with houses in multiple occupation, which sometimes give rise to the concern to which she refers. She will have to be a bit patient and wait for my summary, which will be available shortly to her and to all other Members throughout the House who take an interest in the issue.

There are 8 million people in the private rented sector. At present, if a landlord’s property is repossessed, the first that such people know about it is when they come home to find that the locks have been changed. A succession of Ministers have promised to legislate. When will the Minister act? When will he take on mortgage lenders and keep his promise to tenants?

In fact there are 3 million households in the private rented sector, not 8 million, but the hon. Lady has a point. The number is rising, and last year it was up to about one in seven.

The hon. Lady is rightly concerned about the position of those who may be renting from landlords who are struggling with their mortgages, and who may not be aware that those landlords are having problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) proposes to introduce a private Member’s Bill, to which I am more than prepared to give every assistance and a fair wind because it constitutes exactly the sort of legislation that I think the hon. Lady wishes to see. I hope that, in the best tradition of private Members’ Bills, it will receive support from Members in all parts of the House.

May I suggest two measures that could be considered? First, the Government could try to persuade local authorities to become more proactive in dealing with the worst landlords, particularly through the use of discretionary licensing arrangements. Secondly, they could try to persuade institutional investors to invest for the long term in high-quality developments, and also in long-term management arrangements The properties should be built, and then there should be high-quality management.

My hon. Friend is a member of the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, and is one of the House’s experts on these matters. He is right to suggest that local authorities have an important role which could be reinforced, allowing them to take action against the worst landlords who provide the worst housing, and we are considering doing exactly that. It is one of a number of actions that we need to take to bring the general standard of the private rented sector up to scratch.

As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather), in May the Government pledged at the earliest opportunity to change the law and give tenants at least two months’ notice if their landlords’ properties were being repossessed. Here we are, six months later, and nothing has happened. Why have the Government not taken advantage of an amendment to the recent Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, and why did the Queen’s Speech contain no measure to deal with the problem? Do not the Department’s own estimates show that 1,200 people will be evicted at short notice in the next year simply because the Government have failed to act? We now understand that they will have to do so via a private Member’s Bill. Is that not the opposite to “Real help now”?

The hon. Gentleman recognises that primary legislation is required. Perhaps I can take it from his question that he and his party’s Front-Bench team will support the private Member’s Bill to be presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East—and if so, I warmly welcome that.