Private Rented Sector — [Andrew Rosindell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 1:30 pm, 29th November 2018

We made a number of recommendations in our report and—my hon. Friend is right—that was one of them. We recognised that the Government had made some changes to the rules on selective licensing, in line with the recommendation on widening the criteria used to bring about selective licensing schemes in the Committee’s previous report back in 2013. They are also changing the legislation about the definition of properties included in licensing for housing in multiple occupation, which we welcome.

Nevertheless, in essence, our recommendation is that licensing ought to be a local matter, depending on local circumstances. It should be a local decision, subject to the Secretary of State’s intervention only when councils have not followed the proper procedures. As I understand it, the Government are now reviewing selective licensing. One of my questions will be about the state of that review and when it is likely to report.

In our report, we tried to focus on those landlords who are not doing the job that we would expect them to do. To divide landlords up, there are the bad ones, who are not good at getting around to doing things in a timely way—they are inefficient, or incompetent to some extent, and are sometimes accidental landlords. There are then the so-called rogue landlords, who have more systematic failings, leaving a large number of properties in an unacceptable condition. Then there are the really hardcore landlords—we ought to call them criminals, because that is what they are. The criminal landlords run a business to exploit vulnerable tenants in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. They are robbing not merely the tenants but the taxpayer, because they are getting money in and yet not providing homes that are fit to live in. We tried to concentrate on how to deal with those landlords, but our report also recognised actions the Government have taken in a number of respects. Quite reasonably, we highlighted actions that they have taken in response to our previous report on the private rented sector. We are pleased with that as a Committee.

Right at the beginning of the report, we refer to the imbalance of power between tenants and landlords, and to how that needs addressing. However, I will not go through all our recommendations. Instead, I will focus on where the Government have said they will do something—whether that is to consult, review or consider in some way—and ask the Minister where that has got to and what we can expect.

On the Deregulation Act 2015, we call for a review of the retaliatory eviction legislation and guidance on how it has worked. The Government did not seem totally enthusiastic about that at first, but they have now said that they will review the Act, looking at its effectiveness in terms of retaliatory eviction and perhaps at bringing in more formal requirements to have longer-term tenancies. The Government have gone a bit quiet on that since their announcement, so where is that review up to, and when can we expect some announcement?