Labour loses bid in Commons to regulate private landlords

Criminal landlords, ‘rip off’ letting agent fees and longer tenancies all took centre stage in a House of Commons debate on Wednesday.

Labour MPs led by shadow housing minister Jack Dromey called for a compulsory national register of private landlords, a clampdown on obscure letting agents’ fees, and  tenants to be given secure, longer-term tenancies.

They pointed to the example of the London borough of Newham in pioneering a national register of landlords – which Dromey described as giving an “admirable lead”.

During the lengthy debate, the Labour MP for Leicester West, Liz Kendall, said she had done a mystery shopping exercise on letting agent fees. She said these were unfair, and one agent was charging a fee for what, she said, she didn’t know.

Another MP, Rosie Cooper, using parliamentary privilege, named a lettings agency in Lancashire for its ‘appalling’ practice of charging tenants £200 for a credit check, which tenants then failed.

She said both agents and landlords needed to be regulated.

The opposition debate centred on a motion tabled by Labour, which noted “with concern the lack of protection afforded to tenants and landlords by the unregulated lettings market”.

Labour said that the rented sector creates a “lack of stability, security and affordability for families and other renters”, and the motion also called on the Government to empower local authorities to deal with rogue landlords.

However, housing minister Mark Prisk made plain the Government’s opposition to red tape in the private rented sector.

His amendment to the motion said that the Government “supports action to be taken against the small minority of rogue landlords, without burdening the whole sector with unnecessary costs”.

The amendment also said that while it backed measures against criminal landlords, “excessive red tape would force up rents, reduce choice for tenants and undermine future investment”.

Prisk, a former chartered surveyor, was, however, reminded of his own attempt to introduce regulation of letting agents by Dromey, who said that the RICS had described the private rented sector as like ‘the wild west’.

Dromey said the RICS “are not the only surveyors” with this opinion. Prisk had, when in opposition, tabled an amendment to put letting agents on the same legal basis as estate agents.

“I agree with him,” Dromey declared. “The question is, does he agree with himself.”

The Government’s stance yesterday in the Commons reflects its position last week in the House of Lords, when it made it clear that it would not support Baroness Hayter’s attempts to g
Article courtesy of Landlord Today
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