Private Rented Sector

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:41 pm on 25th June 2014.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test 1:41 pm, 25th June 2014

My hon. Friend could almost have been on my shoulder during my constituency surgeries. I have heard from parents who have been forced to move homes across the city and to take two or three children to different schools. Through no fault of their own, they face disruption to their lives, and it is absolutely corrosive to family life.

Let me explain why I am so disappointed today. Last October, the Department for Communities and Local Government said that it would support longer-term tenancies with predictable rents. It said:

“Tenants will be able to request longer tenancies that provide stability for their families, avoid hidden fees when renting a home and demand a fair deal from their landlords and letting agencies.”

I had thought that that was about changing the market for the better, but what we hear today is that there is a series of proposals in the pipeline that will simply persuade good landlords to be a little better and good letting agencies to be a little kinder. The proposals will make no difference to those agencies that are beyond the pale when it comes to voluntary arrangements or to those landlords who simply do not play by the rules, so business as usual will continue.

Renters in Southampton also need to know that their homes will be of a decent standard. They do not want to be faced with massive fuel bills or leaky, draughty homes. All too often in constituency surgeries, I hear about those who sign up for a lease and then find out that their room or their home is not remotely what they thought it would be. This is yet another area where the Government started down the road of good intention and then stopped. The Energy Act 2011—the last Energy Act but one—stipulated that all properties to be rented from 2018 onwards should be above code F and G, which would ensure that they could be let only if they were reasonably warm and secure. However, such a measure requires secondary legislation, and three years after that legislation was passed, no regulations have been laid.

I have it on good authority that the DCLG is blocking the laying of those regulations. As they have to be laid by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, DCLG is saying that it would be too bureaucratic and costly to implement the legislation. Recent research has shown that landlords across the country would have to spend only about £1,500 to update their properties to meet that standard. If that information is correct, it is shocking. There needs to be a basic understanding that if someone rents a home it will be of good quality, the tenant will be secure in it and the transaction between landlord and tenant will be a fair deal. All the cards are stacked against tenants, and regulation is needed to make sure that the deal is fair. If DCLG is preventing the implementation of legislation that could make sure that homes were of a decent standard, it should get its act together and reverse the decision. I should like to hear from the Minister this afternoon that that is indeed what the Department will do.