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Private Rented Sector

Volume 602: debated on Monday 9 November 2015

The Housing and Planning Bill contains measures to tackle rogue landlords who rent out substandard accommodation. The proposals include the introduction of a database of rogue landlords and letting agents, banning orders for serious or repeat offenders, a tougher fit and proper person test, and the extension of rent repayment orders as well as the introduction of civil penalties.

I am sure the Minister will be aware that the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 could have made a great difference to the improvement of tenant conditions by requiring landlords to uprate their properties. I am sure the Minister will also be aware that the regulations were heavily dependent on the operation of the green deal, which was abolished shortly after the regulations were laid. Does the Minister now intend to intervene to get the regulations rewritten so that they actually work when they are introduced and tenants can benefit from landlords uprating their properties?

We have no intention of imposing any new regulatory burdens on the private rented sector because that simply pushes up costs, which reduces choice and is bad for tenants, and because we want supply to increase. In the Housing and Planning Bill, we will target criminal landlords who are ignoring their existing legal obligations.

18. Private renters face up-front letting fees of up to £500 when they move house and charges when they renew their tenancies. Will the Minister tell the House why the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill does nothing to get to grips with the scandal of sky-high letting fees? (902066)

The measures that we are taking to deal with bad and rogue landlords, whom I am sure we all want driven out of the system, as do the many good landlords out there, have been welcomed by people across the sector, including Shelter, which thinks they provide a good focus to ensure that tenants get the right protection. The changes that we have brought in to bring transparency to letting agent fees have just come into play and we will review them in due course. Being aware of what people are paying is absolutely key.

Research released today shows that since 2005, more than 1.5 million properties have gone from being owner-occupied to privately rented—a sector that is notoriously insecure. Longer tenancies could stabilise the sector, yet most mortgage lenders insist that tenancies are restricted to a year, and freeholders of leasehold properties, many of which are local councils because the properties have been bought through right to buy, often restrict tenancies for a year. What conversations has the Minister held or does he intend to hold with the Treasury and his DCLG colleagues about lifting those artificial barriers to longer tenancies?

One of the biggest things that we can do to increase tenancy security is to ensure that we have growing and stronger institutional investment in the private or professional rented sector, so that there is more supply from institutional investors, like elsewhere in the world, where there are one-year tenancies but there is security because the properties stay in the sector. That is why we have the £1 billion build to rent fund, which will see 10,000 homes coming through. There are already 15 schemes under that fund, which are worth more than £450 million and will supply thousands more homes. That is the answer to ensure that more homes are available.