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Labour’s phantom landlord register
publication date: Jul 30, 2010
In a House of Commons debate last week, Chris Williamson (Derby North, Labour) asked whether the new Minister planned to introduce a national register of private landlords. Another MP, Lilian Greenwood, (Nottingham South, Labour) also asked whether he planned to review the regulatory framework applying to managing and letting agents. Chris Williamson said, “Why is the Minister so indifferent to the rights of private tenants? Is not he worried that weakening local authorities' powers will give a green light to rogue landlords and lead to a surge in the number of houses in multiple occupation? I ask him in all sincerity to think again about ditching the plans to give private tenants greater protection-or is he happy to usher in a new era of Rachmanism?
Mr Shapps replied, “The Honourable Gentleman may not have been here when I last addressed this subject, but I am keen to protect tenants' rights and to ensure that sufficient landlords can operate in the market and are not regulated out of it, thereby making rents more expensive for the very people who want to go into the private rented sector. I looked long and hard for and asked in the Department about the supposed landlords register that the previous Government announced. I could not find a scrap of paper about it, leading me to conclude that it was more a case of a press release than a policy on a landlords register.”
Lilian Greenwood wasn’t content to leave the issue there saying, “There are almost 11,000 private tenants in my constituency, many of whom are students, including overseas students, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by rogue landlords –there are numerous examples of that. Does the Minister agree with the Association of Residential Letting Agents that tenants deserve protection, and that regulation is required to drive up standards?”
“I agree absolutely that tenants deserve protection and that regulations are, of course, required. However, perhaps the Honourable Lady would like to reflect on the fact that we have been in government for two months whereas her party were in government for 13 years. There must be a good reason why the previous Government did not regulate the industry further in that time – and there is. Many different powers are available to local authorities to ensure that they look after residents. Those powers now include HMO-ing, and we will ensure that they apply in areas where local authorities want them, but we no longer need the bureaucracy of their applying nationwide.”
So there we have it, those who believe that it’s a free market and professionalism should win through are happy. Those who believe that the steel hand of legislation is the only way to drive the cowboys out of town are, perhaps, disappointed.