What we are doing for Generation Rent: Mike Weatherley MP, Conservative, Hove and Portslade

I recently wrote to the representatives of the main political parties in Brighton and Hove regarding Generation Rent, asking what they and their political parties would be offering renters after 2015 on issues including high rents, insecure tenancies, and poor practice by some landlords and, in particular, letting agencies. I am posting all responses received, in the order I have received them. Today, the response from Mike Weatherley MP, Conservative, Hove and Portslade.

Please (see below) a copy of the response that I have received from my colleague Kris Hopkins MP, Minister for Housing, which answers some of your housing concerns.

As you can see, Kris has highlighted a number of important points with regard the housing market. Nevertheless, I appreciate that Brighton & Hove has a larger than average private rented sector and that many tenants are unhappy with the high costs of property in the city.

Commenting on this issue generally, I certainly see merit in calling for a ban on letting agents charging fees to tenants. At present, there is little competition when it comes to fees as landlords – who pick their agents – are hardly affected by the level of the fees which are imposed on their tenants. For the system to work properly, a much clearer link needs to exist between quality of service and level of fee.

It is probably the case that rents would rise if fees were banned. This may be deemed acceptable but, in any case, would need to be properly investigated before any snap decision is made. A last-minute amendment from Labour on such a far-reaching issue that really does require more debate was certainly unhelpful. The matter requires careful discussion if tenants are to be served properly. As such, Ministers have agreed to review the matter after one year.

The Government has made clear that more needs to be done to tackle rogue landlords and has also announced that letting agents will be required to publish full details of the fees that they charge. At present, letting agents only have to list compulsory charges to the tenant upfront and do not face severe enough consequences when found to have imposed hidden charges. This will change as letting agents will face a fine if they do not publish a full tariff of their fees on their website and prominently in their offices.

Furthermore, all letting and property management agents will be required to join a compulsory redress scheme, which ensures that tenants and leaseholders have a straightforward option to hold their agents to account.

As you know, the South East – and particularly Brighton & Hove – has a very high cost of living, but unfortunately it is very much a case of huge demand placed upon on a resource that has very limited availability.

I do congratulate you and your team for highlighting the issue of problems in the private rented sector. Debate should be welcomed by all.

Thanks again for taking the trouble to get in touch about this important issue.

Letter from Kris Hopkins to Mike Weatherley MP

Thank you for your letter of 1 May on behalf of your constituent Mr Andy Winter of Brighton Housing Trust, 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH, about the private rented sector.

The Government wants to see a bigger, better private rented sector. The sector has grown and improved enormously in recent years but I know that there is more to do. We believe that the most effective way to make rents more affordable is to increase the supply of new homes, which is why we are investing £1 billion in a build to rent fund, providing equity finance for purpose-built private rented housing, alongside a £10 billion debt guarantee scheme to support the delivery of new homes purpose built for private rent, and up to 30,000 additional affordable homes.

In addition, on Wednesday 16th October, we published our response to a recent select committee report on the private rented sector. Our response sets out an ambitious package of proposals that will ensure all private tenants get proper protection from their landlords, raise standards on the condition of their rented property, provide greater protection against hidden agency fees and improve tenants’ access to longer-term, family friendly tenancies.

As part of this, a new model tenancy agreement is being developed. It will provide tenants with a clear guide to rental contracts and tenants will now be able to identify which clauses in their agreement are optional or unique to that property. We believe this will help tenants negotiate longer fixed-term tenancies, and demand greater certainty over future rent rises.

The full report can be found here.

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