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Landlords and Letting Agents

Volume 630: debated on Monday 30 October 2017

2. What plans he has to ensure that landlords and letting agents meet contractual obligations to tenants. (901463)

We will make it mandatory for landlords to be part of an ombudsman scheme and we are increasing local authorities’ powers to tackle rogue practices. We also published on 18 October a call for evidence seeking views on regulating all letting and managing agents.

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. May I urge the Secretary of State, in clamping down on rogue practices in the private sector, to keep a weather eye on some of our housing associations, which often seem to think that they are above and beyond the rules and regulations that govern the private sector?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the profile of social housing tenants. Last month, we announced that there will be a Green Paper on social housing, which will be a broad review of issues facing the social housing sector to ensure that tenants’ voices are heard. The Housing Minister is travelling across the country to listen to tenants and ensure that we truly understand all the issues.

Under Newham Council’s excellent landlord licensing, working with the police and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs the council has issued 2,834 notices since January 2013 to address and abate serious hazards. The decision on reauthorising the scheme was due seven weeks ago. Will the Secretary of State assure me that from 1 January he will not deny private tenants in my constituency the vital protection provided by this scheme?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that selective licensing is an important part of ensuring that we can look after tenants, particularly those who might be more vulnerable. We consider every application we get carefully, as we want to make sure that that consideration is proportionate. We will take a careful look at the case he mentions.

I welcome the Government’s plans to reform the lettings market and the estate agency market. Given, however, that most firms undertake both lettings and sales, will the Government avoid the unnecessary duplication of rules and regulators? After all, separate regulatory regimes could be expensive for business and confusing for consumers.

My hon. Friend speaks with experience and makes a good point. Of course we want to avoid unnecessary and duplicative regulation, but I think he agrees with the Government that it is necessary to regulate letting agents and it is good that we are progressing with that.

Is not one of the first lines of defence against rogue landlords local government, particularly environmental health inspectors? How does taking an axe to local government finance help tenants?

The hon. Gentleman should know that when we changed the law in April 2017 so that local authorities had more power to intervene against rogue landlords, we also provided additional funding of some £12 million.

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. So many more people are renting today than ever before, and, as we fix our broken housing market, it is important that we listen to them and find ways to ensure that more of them are offered longer tenancies. That is why I recently announced that the Government are actively looking at the issue, and we will bring forward plans to ensure this in the Budget.