Private Rented Sector — [Andrew Rosindell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:02 pm on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 2:02 pm, 29th November 2018

That is welcome.

Let me take up the issue, because we made recommendations on this and the Government have not accepted them, but they agree to keep the issue under review. We have a delicate balance to strike, because the sad reality is that if landlords are in a position where they cannot evict bad tenants, there is a serious problem and they will say that it is not worth being a landlord and letting out the properties.

As the author, promoter and sponsor of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 on section 21 notices, I know them in infinite detail. They are deemed to be no-fault evictions, and clearly we need to preserve the position whereby a landlord can get their property back, but at the same time, some landlords seem routinely to issue section 21 notices on six-month tenancies as protection for getting the property back at the end. One solution is to have longer tenancies, with protection for the tenant and for the landlord, with the potential for break clauses on both sides. That seems to have gone very quiet in Government thinking, and I hope my hon. Friend the Minister can update us on where we are going with longer tenancies and protection of tenancies.

There seems to be a suggestion from the Government that retaliatory eviction is a relatively rare occurrence. For those people who gave evidence to us having suffered it, it might have been a rare occurrence but it was a life-changing experience and we must condemn it. Landlords have a duty to keep their homes up to a reasonable and safe standard, and if tenants complain that the property is not kept up to that standard, it is quite right that the landlord should then put it right. If the result is that the landlord evicts the person or the tenants, that is an outrage and we need to ensure that action is taken. At the moment there is not enough protection for the tenants. The Chair of the Select Committee mentioned the specialist housing court, which would be warmly welcomed by both landlords and tenants. If we could have an update on the status of the Government review, that would be terribly helpful and informative to the Committee.

I will say two last things before I sit down. First, we made a recommendation on the local housing allowance, particularly regarding studio accommodation. In London, this is becoming a big issue. Properties are subdivided into small units and put out to rent and the tenants are therefore being exploited. There is a case, which we have made in the report, for taking action in this area, and I would welcome the Minister’s taking some action. I accept that this situation is not necessarily true across the country, but in London it is a serious issue that must be addressed.

Secondly, on penalties for bad landlords and the protection of tenants, although I do not normally read The Guardian, it has provided a very helpful brief in its coverage on rogue landlords and what has happened. The sad reality is that if landlords fail the fit and proper person test and are banned, all their tenants should know about it. That just makes sense. To have a position where a landlord can be banned in one borough but carry on renting in others just does not make sense at all. One thing we need to see is urgent action to introduce a position where landlords are banned and action is taken.

I agree that in the most serious cases, a fine just becomes part of doing business, so having the ability to confiscate the property and protect the tenants from the behaviours of rogue or criminal landlords must be the final resort. On that point I will sit down, but I look forward to the Minister’s response and to working with colleagues to improve the position for both tenants and the good landlords in this country.