Tenant Fees Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 2:15 pm, 23rd January 2019

I thank the Minister for that helpful intervention, which clarified her earlier remarks and what was said when I intervened on her speech.

It is reasonable to set a position whereby we are abundantly clear in the Bill—I hope it will soon become an Act—that letting agents, estate agents or whoever are working on behalf of landlords, not tenants. I therefore warmly welcome the Lords amendment on holding deposits that was wisely tabled by the Government. What happens at the moment is an absolute outrage: some unscrupulous letting agents take a variety of competing holding deposits to inflate rents by almost having an auction for rental properties. That is grossly unfair on prospective tenants who are just looking for a property, so I warmly welcome that decision. It will be a welcome change for tenants throughout the country.

I am glad about the clarity of the Lords amendments that ensure that we are clear about the charges a landlord can make, what their purposes are and what the standards of evidence must be so that tenants do not bear a ridiculous price for, say, a lost key. Any charge will have to be evidence-based—the cost of replacing keys or other such security devices will be set out—and any cost will be reasonable, not inflated. One of the problems has been that certain unscrupulous individuals have been getting away with ripping off tenants with such charges in a grossly unfair way.

I warmly welcome the Lords amendments. The whole Select Committee welcomes the fact that the Government have finally got to where we were in the first place on deposits. I trust that we will reject the spurious Opposition amendments and ensure that the Bill, which has been warmly welcomed throughout the country, rapidly becomes law so that we can implement a process that is fair for tenants.

One thing that we desperately need to introduce is a national rental deposit scheme. My hon. Friend Will Quince and I managed to convince the Chancellor to do that at the time of not the most recent Budget, but the one before, and money was allocated to the Department to make that happen. When the Minister sums up, I would welcome her assuring us that we will speed up the process of introducing such a scheme so that those for whom the deposit is the key issue in getting a tenancy can be funded by public money, thus protecting them and giving them the opportunity to get a tenancy and a home of their own.