The Housing Bill didn’t really receive all that much attention last week because of Jeremy Corbyn’s epic never ending reshuffle.
Indeed, the Government has come under criticism for attempting to rush the bill through parliament. And, yesterday, the defeat of a Labour amendment to the bill didn’t get that much attention in the mainstream press either, meanwhile on Reddit it is currently the second hottest trending topic.
Yesterday MPs voted against new rules, proposed by Shadow Housing Minister Teresa Pearce, which would require private sector landlords to ensure that their properties ‘are fit for human habitation’. Seems like a sensible thing to vote against...
The amendment, which was designed to ensure that all rented accommodation is safe for people to live in and give additional protection to renters, was defeated by 312 votes to 219 on Tuesday, that’s a majority of 93.
She said ‘the majority of landlords let property which is and remains in a decent standard. Many landlords go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently. So it is even more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices.’
Pearce said that the condition of some rented accommodation would not be tolerated in other sectors, referencing reports of mouldy walls in privately rented properties.
As anyone who’s searched for a rented property recently, especially in London, will know quality comes at a price and that what’s available and affordable is often sub standard, to put it mildly.
‘Where else in modern day life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchase a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would or was unsafe I would take it back and get a refund’, Pearce added.
‘If I purchased food from a shop and it was unsafe to east I would not only get a refund but there is a high possibility the shopkeeper could be prosecuted. Yet if I rent from a landlord, perhaps the only available property for me, and it was unsafe to live in then I can either put up or shut up. In a market where demand outstrips supply renters lack basic consumer power to bargain for better conditions.’
In response to her suggestions the Conservative Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones said: ‘new clause 52 would result in unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords which would deter further investment and push up rents for tenants.’
At the end of last year new legislation was brought in to offer protection to private tenants in Scotland, defending renters from the threat of unfair eviction and big rent increases. They’ve also banned letting agents' fees.
However, in England, despite the fact that more people than ever before (not just young professionals but families too) are living in private rented accommodation, that for the first time in our countries history there are more people who live in privately rented properties (4.4 million) than in social housing (3.9 million) the legislation hasn’t kept up.
Perhaps it’s because the majority of our lawmakers and politicians are of a generation who were more likely to be able to buy their own home and less likely to have been renting into their 30s and 40s? Perhaps it's because quite a few MPs are actually also buy-to-let landlords?
Either way, as things stand today the average age of a first time buyer in the UK is 31 and 52 per cent of those people received cash contributions from their parents, and many people are renting later and later in life.
Over the last 20 years properties have mostly trebled in value from around £61,600 to £196,000, and they are predicted to go up another 25 per cent over the next five years, due to limited supply and increased demand, pushing homeownership out of reach for even more people.
New research also recently suggested that the average British would-be homebuyer needs to save for 24 years in order to rack up enough to be able to afford a deposit, which is an increase from just three years in 1997. Yes, you read that right: three years.
And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warned at the end of last year that the cost of renting in the UK could be set to rise far faster than house prices over the next five years.
Renting is Generation Rent’s reality. It’s no longer simply a temporary stop gap while you save up a deposit, it’s a long term way of existing. For many it’s not a choice, it’s the only option available to them.
It’s not putting landlords off from investing in buy-to-let properties that politicians should be concerned about, it’s making sure that those of us who live in them have the protection we deserve. If agency fees are banned in Scotland why do they still exist in England? Why do they vary so widely from agency to agency? Why is it still possible for landlords to put the rent up in the middle of a contract?
So many questions…but it seems they’re falling on deaf ears.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.