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Residential Property Management

Volume 648: debated on Monday 5 November 2018

6. What progress he has made on improving standards in the management of residential property in the (a) private rented and (b) social housing sectors. [R] (907439)

All tenants deserve a safe and decent place to live. In respect of the private rented sector, Lord Best is chairing a new working group on property agent regulation, and we have extended mandatory licensing. The social housing Green Paper contains proposals to drive up the performance of social landlords in delivering a good service.

I welcome the reforms, especially the requirement for all residential managers to be trained and qualified. That is the way to raise standards. However, there are concerns about how the requirement may be introduced. Will the Minister agree to a meeting to discuss how existing qualifications will be accredited by the proposed mandatory qualifications, so that we do not end up worsening the current shortage of competent managers?

With his usual accuracy, my hon. Friend identifies an issue critical to getting this matter right. As he knows, the working group will be looking at the entire property agent sector to ensure that any new regulatory framework is joined up across letting, property management and estate agents. One of the key issues in making that new regulatory framework land will be the transition from the old to new, and I will be more than happy—indeed it would be foolish of me not to agree—to meet a former Housing Minister of such standing.

According to the Government’s own figures, there are more than 10,000 rogue landlords operating in England. Will the Minister therefore explain to tenants who are suffering from damp and often unsafe conditions why none of these landlords appears on the Government’s new rogue landlord database?

As the hon. Lady knows, the database was introduced earlier this year and it will take time to populate in order for landlords to appear on it. There will obviously have to be investigations, prosecutions, and penalties levied so that they can properly be entered on to the database. She will know that the introduction of banning orders and a rogue landlord database will have an enormous impact in future. We just have to make sure that we get the right names on it.

Having man’s best friend by one’s side can make a massive difference to somebody who is suffering from loneliness, social isolation or mental health issues. I am aware of at least one local authority that has taken the retrograde step of banning its tenants from keeping a pet. Will my hon. Friend please look at the guidance given to local councils, because, to many people, having a pet is their lifeline?

As part of a family who regard their pet cat as an intrinsic and important member of our household—[Interruption.] Well, hon. Members may well be amused by that, but it is true what my hon. Friend says: a number of people, particularly those who live alone or those who have children, rely on their pets for comfort and calm and for companionship. I would hope that all local authorities operated a humane and compassionate letting policy where this is concerned, and I would be more than happy to look at the rules around that.

I empathise very strongly with the Minister, and there should be no levity over this important matter. Our own household cat is very fundamental to our way of life and is suitably named Order.

I have no pets to declare to the House.

On behalf of my party, I offer our condolences on the passing of Sir Jeremy Heywood and our thanks for his service in public life.

It was encouraging to hear that the UK Government are to follow the example set in 2015 by the Scottish Government and introduce mandatory five-year electrical safety checks on rental homes. Will the Minister confirm a start date for those checks?

I am afraid that I will have to write to the hon. Lady with that answer as I do not have it to hand at the moment, but she is quite right that we have been reviewing standards generally in the private rented sector and considering what more we can do to make sure that private rented homes are as safe as they can possibly be.

That is a disappointing response, particularly considering how important safety is to people renting accommodation. Citizens Advice found that renters in England who complain about issues with their home are statistically more likely to get evicted. The Scottish Government abolished no-fault evictions recently. Will the Minister consider doing likewise so that tenants in England do not fear reporting faults with their homes?

We certainly want to make sure that the phenomenon of revenge evictions is stamped out and that there is an equality of power between tenants and landlords in both the social and the private rented sectors.