Conservative MPs have voted against proposals that would have required private landlords to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation.
The Labour amendment to the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill – created to make sure that all rental homes were safe for tenants – was defeated by 312 votes to 219 yesterday, when the bill went through its third reading in the House of Commons.
Conservatives Reject Move to Ensure Rental Homes are Safe
The Shadow Housing Minister, Teresa Pearce, who proposed the amendment, stated: “The majority of landlords let property which is and remains in a decent standard. Many landlords go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently.
“So it is even more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices.”
She added that the condition of some rental properties would not be tolerated in other sectors, noting reports of mould growing.
She asked: “Where else in modern life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would, or was unsafe, I would take it back and get a refund.
“If I purchased food from a shop and it was unsafe to eat, I would not only get a refund but there is a high possibility the shopkeeper could be prosecuted. Yet if I rent from a landlord, perhaps the only available property for me, and it was unsafe to live in, then I can either put up or shut up. In a market where demand outstrips supply, renters lack basic consumer power to bargain for better conditions.”1
The Government has been criticised for trying to rush the Housing and Planning Bill through Parliament – last month it quietly tabled an amendment to the bill that set a maximum of five-year terms for new council home tenancies.
In yesterday’s debate, MPs backed the proposal to ban rogue landlords and letting agents that repeatedly commit offences against private rental sector laws or regulations. Fines of up to £30,000 for landlords or agents that knowingly rent out unsafe homes will also be implemented. Councils will be given access to a blacklist of rogue operators.
Additionally, the bill will controversially extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants who wish to purchase their homes. This policy will be partly funded by requiring councils to sell the top third of their most valuable properties.
Marcus Jones, the Local Government Minister, believes Pearce’s proposal would cause “unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords” that could discourage further investment in the buy-to-let sector and drive up rents for tenants.
He said: “Of course we believe that all homes should be of a decent standard and all tenants should have a safe place to live regardless of tenure, but local authorities already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality and unsafe accommodation, and we expect them to use them.”1
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