Private Rented Sector

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 25th June 2014.

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Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 3:49 pm, 25th June 2014

There is a whole suite of legislation that local authorities should be using. The basic duty is to provide accommodation that is in a fit and proper state to be let. That covers all sorts of things, including electrical safety. That is why we have provided these resources to local authorities. The powers are there. Where there are particular problems, we have given the resources to deal with them. Already once in this Parliament, in 2012, we updated the guidance—I am answering the hon. Gentleman’s question—to local authorities and we will update it again this year, so that everyone is clear what powers are available to deal with and prosecute, if necessary, rogue landlords. We have removed the cap on the £5,000 fine, so that if local authorities find that there are problems, magistrates have the freedom to ensure that they can issue the strongest possible penalties to root out bad practice in the sector.

On letting agents, we have already announced that they will be required to join an ombudsman scheme. In April, we approved three schemes. Secondary legislation is going through to ensure that all letting and property management agents belong to such a scheme. Just a couple of weeks ago, we published the “How to rent” guide to empower tenants with better information, so that they know their rights. That publication has been warmly received in the sector. We are working, genuinely, with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to update the code of practice on that area.

Rent control was mentioned several times. Earlier this year, the shadow Housing Minister said to Cathy Newman on “Channel 4 News”:

“Rent controls are not going to work in practice.”

I assume that she has changed her mind since that time.