Among the findings of a select committee of MPs, the Government has just been told that London’s “Generation Rent” is being exploited by greedy agents and rogue landlords and needs protection against abuses including sky-high rental hikes and unsafe living conditions.
Experts who gave evidence to the select committee want much greater protection for the capital’s growing army of tenants. Jacky Peacock, secretary of the National Private Tenants Organisation, told the MPs: “There are cases of renters being charged more than £150 for repeat annual credit checks which cost no more than £25 to carry out.”
Peacock wants the British government to emulate Scotland which has banned letting agents for charging for their services.
Alan Ward, chair of the Residential Landlords Association told the committee that rogue landlords who “heap misery” on tenants should be vigorously pursued through the courts. Ward, who pointed out that last year only 487 landlords were prosecuted out of a total of 1.2 million cases brought, said: “This is despite our analysis showing over 100 individual pieces of legislation and regulations affecting the sector. The problem is not a lack of powers but the willingness and ability of local authorities to enforce their existing powers,” he added.
Spiralling rents were the key concern raised by homeless charity Shelter. “As well as building more homes to bring the cost of housing down, we need to make rents more predictable,” said Kay Boycott, Shelter’s director of communications, policy and campaigns.
She set out a plan to introduce five-year tenancies which a landlord could only end with good reason. Tenants would be free, with notice, to end the agreement. Rents could increase every year - but only in line with inflation. Landlords, she said, could be given tax breaks to make sure they didn’t lose out.
Rent control, an even more radical step, was backed by Peacock, who suggested following the Swedish example where private rents are capped at no more than five per cent higher than local council house rents.
However, Ward cautioned that any form of rent control would deter landlords from entering the rental sector, reducing the already short supply of property.
The committee, led by Labour backbencher Clive Betts, will make an official report on its findings to the Government later this year.