Landlords

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 27th March 2007.

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Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire 2:30 pm, 27th March 2007

What assessment she has made of the merits of further regulating landlords.

Photo of Stephen Hepburn Stephen Hepburn Labour, Jarrow

What steps she is taking to tackle unscrupulous landlords.

Photo of Ruth Kelly Ruth Kelly Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government

The mandatory licensing of high-risk houses in multiple occupation and discretionary powers for local authorities to license other private rented accommodation were introduced in April 2006. From 6 April this year, we will introduce a scheme to protect tenancy deposits.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

There has certainly been excellent short and medium-term progress at the bottom end of the market in the schemes for HMO licensing and tenancy deposit protection, but does the Secretary of State agree that we need some long-term reforms in this sector—either by licensing rented property or by encouraging landlords to sign up to minimum management standards, greater security of tenure and linking rent rises only to inflation? That would make private sector renting much more attractive and guarantee a lot more tenants decent homes. Does my right hon. Friend agree?

Photo of Ruth Kelly Ruth Kelly Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government

I agree with the thrust of my hon. Friend's comments. We should have a dual approach. First, we should encourage minimum standards and the spread of good practice across the sector. We are doing that by supporting accreditation schemes, whereby local authorities work with landlords to drive up standards across the sector. Secondly, we should give local authorities the powers that they need where management and landlords are clearly failing in their duties. If we take that two-pronged approach, we will avoid a situation in which hundreds and thousands of tenants throughout the country face the consequences of extraordinarily poor management on occasion, and insecurity in their tenure as well.

Photo of Stephen Hepburn Stephen Hepburn Labour, Jarrow

Will my right hon. Friend examine the grave situation on Tyneside and further afield, where people who find themselves in debt, such as my constituents Anthony and Gillian McCluskey, are enticed to sell their property at far below its market value to unscrupulous property companies on the assumption that they can rent the property back, only to be given notice to quit very shortly afterwards?

Photo of Ruth Kelly Ruth Kelly Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government

I will certainly look into that issue. I thank my hon. Friend for drawing it to my attention; I understand that he has raised it before in this House. It is vital that anyone who is considering a sale and leaseback arrangement takes good quality legal advice. I know that my hon. Friend is working with his local citizens advice bureau to make sure that potentially vulnerable people are given the best possible advice and steered in the direction of legal advice, so that they can take out appropriate arrangements.