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

I have only two minutes left, so I will finish my points.

As we all know—the evidence is there—before the Housing Act 1988, the private rented sector shrank to just 9% of households. Since then, it has doubled to 18% of households. Evidence from Britain and around the world shows that rent controls always lead to fewer properties on the market and higher rents.

We have also been working on a model tenancy agreement, which will be published soon. To answer the question asked by Diana Johnson, that will indeed address the issues that students face.

On letting agents fees, we have announced that there will be a requirement to belong to an ombudsman scheme. In the Consumer Rights Bill, which went through this House last week, we outlined provisions to deal with that. There will be transparency on fees. That will root out the practices that we all deplore and agree are wrong: double charging for credit agreements and changes to tenancy agreements. That should not be happening. We think that transparency and the fine for not belonging to the ombudsman scheme will largely root that out.

We all agree that we need to build more housing of all tenure types, but the Labour party presided over a bubble and a crash in the private rental sector and a huge contraction in the number of social houses available. The coalition has seen strong growth and the most ambitious affordable housing programme in a generation.

The motion shows Labour is playing catch-up with the Government. We have published a guide to renting, and we are about to publish a model tenancy; Labour failed to do both while in office. We have introduced an ombudsman scheme for letting agents; Labour failed to do that. We are introducing transparency over fees and a fine for non-compliance; Labour failed to do that. We are giving guidance and resources to tackle rogue landlords; Labour failed to do that.

The private rental sector is important and growing. The Government want it to provide an attractive, purpose-built investment for landlords, but also, crucially, a safe and secure home for tenants. The motion ought to be a lament about the lack of Labour action over 13 years. As with the economy, however, there is no apology and no credible remedy, and I urge colleagues to reject it.