Private Rented Sector

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:29 pm on 25th June 2014.

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Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle 2:29 pm, 25th June 2014

I accept that six-month tenancies are used as a matter of course, and that is a cultural issue that I will touch on in a minute.

The English housing survey notes that the average length of residence for a tenant is 3.8 years and that 66% of tenants are in a property for more than a year. We have heard a lot about rapidly rising rents, but I must confess that I am slightly perplexed. Figures from the Office for National Statistics for the period 2005 to 2014 show that the consumer prices index has risen by 13.3% and rents have risen by 9.5%—12.5% in London. Indeed, tenants who remain in a property often see their rent increase more slowly. I will give a personal example. I mentioned in my declaration of interests that I am a landlord. I have rented out a property to the same tenant for over five years, and during that time the rent has never been increased. Yet the tenancy was not for three years; it has varied from six months initially to a year and then was renewed each year. With regard to letting agents, transparency is the key, not regulation. It is quite right that landlords will look to see their costs being met in a different way. It is transparency we need, not further regulation.

Ultimately, what we want is a vibrant, flexible and competitive private rented sector with quality housing. Therefore, I remind the House of the Select Committee’s key conclusions. First, the present market is broadly working and will continue to develop. Yes, we need a cultural change on the length of tenancies. I think that having six-month tenancies is partly a habit developed by letting agents and landlords, but it has also been influenced by mortgagees, who are reluctant to see tenancies go beyond a year. Secondly, we clearly need much more housing of all types. Thirdly, to improve standards we need proper enforcement by local authorities of the existing laws. We need to allow the market to develop within the existing laws and the recent Government proposals. I believe that that, rather than further regulation and state interference, will lead to a successful private sector market.