On the 16 June the Government published the Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper. Would you agree we need more concrete proposals brought forward urgently in London so that housing charities, local councils, you and all Londoners can tell the Government what they need from the new legislation?
Renters have waited far too long for these reforms, which are crucial to better balance the rights of landlords and tenants living in the private rented sector. Renters now need to see legislation brought forward with the utmost urgency so they can live safely and securely in their homes. The White Paper contains many of the recommendations set out in the London Model Tenancies Reform I published in 2019, including ending section 21 evictions, introducing open-ended tenancies with no fixed term breaks or break clauses, and reforming possession grounds so that landlords can only evict renters when they have a legitimate need to do so. I am also pleased to see the inclusion of a property portal, the landlord register I have campaigned for and which will build on the success of the Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker I published and established in London in the absence of Government action.
However, crucial elements are missing from the White Paper proposals if all renters, particularly those who are the most vulnerable and households with children, are to truly see the benefit of these reforms. These include extended notice periods, tenant relocation payments and freezing rent for the next two years, particularly during this cost of living crisis. It is really important whoever becomes the next Conservative Leader and therefore our Prime Minister commits to deliver on these as soon as possible.
Len Duvall AM (on behalf of Sem Moema AM):
Thank you for that answer. Some of the proposals contained in terms of the Government’s suggestions are on removing no-fault evictions and to introduce a legally binding Decent Home Standard. Would you agree with the Local Government Association (LGA) that we need to review the London Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, which would help the poorest in society and, obviously, the poorest in London if it was agreed nationally?
Absolutely, and it is worth reminding colleagues the LGA is cross-party. What has happened is that because the LHA does not track market rents, what you are seeing is those who are eligible for benefits only receiving a proportion of the rent the landlord charges them, which is a big problem if you cannot afford to pay the difference. That is why you are seeing Londoners living in overcrowded accommodation, because they can only afford to live in a property where the LHA covers their rent. Also, do not forget that the benefit cap means there is a big problem for many families who are receiving support from the Government, the housing element of the Universal Credit. Two things need to happen. Yes, what the LGA is saying about the LHA keeping track with market rents, but secondly the cap on benefits being removed is also important.
Len Duvall AM (on behalf of Sem Moema AM): OK. Would you also agree with me that the current cost of living crisis that we are facing would support the Government devolving the powers? You mentioned this in earlier questions that you and other metro mayors could introduce rent caps/rent controls.
I appreciate London is different to Burnley in relation to housing issues and a number of other issues as well. What the Government should do is let go. Give those in charge of the Londons, the Manchesters, the Bristols, Oxford and Cambridgeshire, where there are all issues around the cost of living, particularly in relation to private rents, the power to do more in this area in relation to freezing rents, rent controls, the quality of housing and so forth. Actually, there is some good news, which is the work we did in 2019. The Government has cherry-picked some of it. We are saying: go the whole nine yards and devolve to us the powers to set rent controls - some may decide not to, by the way - if we want to do so.