It is important to recognise the opportunities that the private rental sector offers in terms of choice for people and of benefits to the work force. To be able to move to a city for a new job with no worries about finding somewhere to live is hugely attractive and allows people to experience living in different places without the commitment of buying a property. The fact that a third of private tenants in London have lived in their property for less than a year should not be seen as a uniformly negative thing. In my constituency, we see a great deal of churn, with young renters coming and going. They like the flexibility. Moving around different areas and sharing with friends and colleagues is an interesting and formative stage for many young professionals. Not everyone considers three-year tenancies to be either desirable or the norm. For others with different needs, more supply providing more choice and more competition is surely the right way forward.
Of course there are cases of unscrupulous landlords, but there are ways of minimising the problem without wholesale state intervention in the market. The Mayor of London has introduced the London rental standard, aimed at accrediting landlords and bringing transparency to the market. Landlords with the accreditation will be more attractive to both renters and agents, and in a competitive market, the advantages of signing up to it are clear. Councils could, in some cases, do more to ensure that private landlords, to whom they pay housing benefit, do more to ensure their properties are maintained to a good standard.
Estate agent fees can be unpopular, but the agents are operating in the free market and will be paid for their service. It is unrealistic to think that the costs would not simply be passed on by increasing rents if the one-off charges were scrapped. Someone has to pay them for their professional time spent doing the admin work. In any case, estate agents are starting to reduce fees in many cases in order to be competitive. Many landlords will acknowledge the speed with which the marketing undertaken by agents can fill their properties, and similarly, agents make finding a property remarkably straightforward for the renters. Agents can fulfil a useful purpose.
The best solution to affordability of housing, whether rented or not, is to increase supply, as so many in the Chamber have said today.