Time for a Fresh Start from 9 June
We were all taken by surprise when the Prime Minister announced a snap election, to be held on 8 June.
But we intend to hit the ground running with our demands (helpful suggestions?) to the new Housing Minister as soon as this appointment has been made by the incoming Government. Conditions for private renters have worsened so much as the housing crisis has deepened, and will only be halted by a completely new approach.
Latest figures show London renters with housing costs equal to 60% of their gross earnings with housing benefit, or 72% without it. There is a growing gap between the housing benefit cap and the rents tenants have to pay, driving more and more people into deep poverty.
Despite the high rents, the state of properties is often very poor and incompetent management means that frequent requests for repairs are ignored, or worse, the response is a notice telling the tenant to leave.
So here are our main proposals for the next Government
- Make some small changes to the remit of the Property Tribunal Service which already has the power to fix tenants’ rents. Instead of determining the rent for a particular tenancy, the rent should attach to the accommodation itself. That way, if the current tenant leaves, the rent registered by the Tribunal will still apply, so there is no incentive for the landlord to evict.
- Reform the cap on housing benefit by aligning it with rents determined by the Property Tribunal Service.
- Introduce a national Property Licensing Scheme to end the present inconsistencies in terms of licence conditions, fees payable, the licence term and whether (and when) inspections take place.
- Abolish S.21 (No Fault) ground for possession. This is the cornerstone of our proposals because none of the other changes will work without it. Landlords are running businesses and they are also providing homes, the most basic of needs. The power landlords have to evict tenants who have not breached the terms of their tenancy, means that most tenants in need are too frightened to complain about their living conditions or to exercise any of their tenancy rights. Granting security of tenure should run alongside streamlining the possession process when there are grounds, like rent arrears, and with special conditions for genuine short-lets, for example if someone wants to let their own home for a year while they are working abroad.
- Promotion of a new form of Ethical Letting Agency, which encourages ethical landlords, by which we mean, landlords who genuinely want to provide homes for people in return for a reasonable, but not excessive rent. We know ethical landlords are out there, we meet them. We think that their efforts should be recognised with a special status so that others would be encouraged to join them.
Radical changes? Not really. Security of tenure was taken for granted for more than a hundred years before it was brought to an end in January 1989. Landlords are crying out for consistent licensing standards, and landlords, tenants and the general public, all want the image of private renting to improve, so it becomes an acceptable and respectable housing sector instead of the one of last resort.
So please get ready to join us in calling for these changes, and making sure that they are implemented, starting from 9 June!
I’ve been championing private tenants’ rights for over 30 years. I really should have retired by now but I can’t bear to walk away from the current situation when private renters have never had it so bad.