Private Rented Sector

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 25th June 2014.

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Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge 1:50 pm, 25th June 2014

I do not claim to be an expert on the situation in Leeds, but my hon. Friend makes a good point. They should be doing such things. In Cambridge we charged higher council tax for empty properties instead of giving a discount, as was previously the case. People paid less if they brought a property back into use. It is hard for people who are desperately looking for a house to know that there are empty properties around.

I will not go through everything I spoke about in my speech on Second Reading of my private Member’s Bill. I went into more detail about the need for an ombudsman and for accreditation schemes. I prefer accreditation schemes to a national register because they would be cheaper, more effective and less bureaucratic and would avoid problems with letting property on a more occasional basis. We are agreed that we need a better system, and accreditation could work.

Dr Whitehead spoke about houses in multiple occupation. There are some good examples of HMOs, but others are a serious problem and do not comply with basic health and safety regulations. They are an essential part of the housing mix in a place like Cambridge. We rely on them to house people, and they do a good job. Yet Labour councillors have proposed to cap the number of HMOs and change the definition to any house with three people from two unrelated groups. Driving younger people out of HMOs would simply slash the supply and make it even harder to house people in my constituency.