Private Rented Sector — [Andrew Rosindell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:26 pm on 29th November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Housing) 2:26 pm, 29th November 2018

I thank my hon. Friend: I did not see Shelter’s evidence in 2013, but, yes, that sounds a reasonable way forward. The absolute starting point, as I said at the start of my contribution, is that we know that most landlords are good landlords. We are not trying to create a system in which they cannot function and cannot evict people when they need to; we are trying to create a system that is fair. The Labour Front-Bench team were fortunate to go to Berlin recently to see, as many people have, the system of renting that people have there and to look at some of the other models. There are lots of lessons to be learned from other countries.

I should make progress. The Guardian and ITV investigation into the private rented sector, which has been talked about and has forced a U-turn from the Prime Minister, is worrying. Despite the Government estimating that there are 10,000 rogue landlords, not a single name, at the time of that investigation, had been added to the database; that was in October, which was more than six months after its launch. One wonders what the point of a rogue landlord database is if the rogue landlords have not been identified. The Mayor of London’s database has more than 1,000 entries. I hope that the Government, through the Minister, can update us on where the rogue landlord database has got to today.

The Government announced that they would give £2 million to local authorities to take action against bad landlords, but that amounts to £6,000 per council. Meanwhile, the trading standards teams expected to enforce new legislation such as the Tenant Fees Bill have seen enforcement officer numbers go down by 56% since 2009. These teams have faced funding cuts of almost £100 million since 2010. Local authorities overall have had billions of pounds taken away from their budgets. In that context, £6,000 does not feel like enough.

The Opposition recognise that the scale of the challenge means we need a more radical response—a consumer rights revolution. We have a commitment to end unfair evictions. I am proud that my local authority, Croydon Council, was the first to pass a motion calling on the Government to scrap section 21. We have committed to give renters greater security, as we have just discussed, with a three-year cap on rent rises. We want to name and shame rogue landlords and introduce tougher fines for those who fail to meet minimum standards, with those fines funding local authority enforcement work. We would properly support landlord licensing. We also want to see greater powers for Mayors across the country to control rents, if appropriate, in high-cost areas such as London.

Inspired by the system in Germany, we have committed to spend millions to kick-start renters’ unions. I spent time at the Labour party conference talking about that with London Renters Union, which has helped many renters out of situations in which they would have struggled on their own. We want root-and-branch reform of the private rented sector. It is too dysfunctional for us to tinker around the edges. The end result of insecure tenancies, unsafe homes or extortionate rents is staring us all in the face. The end of a private tenancy is the leading cause of homelessness today. There are 1.6 million people in chronic debt, and 120,000 children will wake up tomorrow without a home. That is not to mention the extra 1 million people under the age of 35 who are unable to buy their own home and are forced to rent in the private rented sector. For all of their sakes we should reform the private rented sector.