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Private Landlords

Volume 543: debated on Monday 30 April 2012

Excessive red tape in the sector would push up rents and reduce choice for tenants. That is why we are streamlining licensing processes for houses in multiple occupation and scrapping plans for an expensive and counter-productive state register of every landlord. This afternoon I am chairing a taskforce on rogue landlords in order to try to drive them out of the market.

One way of alleviating the regulatory burden on landlords but also improving safety and security for tenants would be to provide a simple standardised document containing all landlord and tenant responsibilities, from fire safety to antisocial behaviour. The planning system is about to benefit from a process of simplification. Will the Minister do likewise with the private rented housing sector?

I am pleased to report to my hon. Friend that standards are certainly improving in the private-rented sector. For example, satisfaction levels are higher than in the social sector and rates of energy performance are better than in the private sector. I like the sound of his idea, and I will certainly have a look at it. It sounds as though it might be comparable with a template lease, and it is worth further consideration.

There are now more than 1 million families with children whose home is privately rented, and Shelter says that a third of them cut down on food to pay their rents and they can all be kicked out with less than a month’s notice. Why are the Government so out of touch with the pressure that people face that they are denying even the basic security of a legal right to a written tenancy agreement?

The right hon. Gentleman, who knows a thing or two about housing, is absolutely right to indicate the pressure in the system caused by more than a decade of building far fewer homes than are required, which has led to rents rising very quickly. There are now some signs that rents have started to moderate. The English housing survey shows that rents rose at a slower pace than inflation; LSL Property Services shows falls for the third month in a row; and Professor Michael Ball reports that they fell by a tenth in real terms between 2008 and 2011. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, following on from the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders), to suggest that we must always drive for improvements, and that may well include looking at leasing documents.