THE BLOG

The Country's 11Million Private Renters Need A Consumer Rights Revolution - Labour Will Give It To Them

01/05/2017 00:07 BST | Updated 01/05/2017 00:14 BST
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One in five of us rent from a private landlord, including 1.6million families with kids, but the laws of the land haven't caught up with the way we now live. In practice, in 21st Century England, you have fewer rights renting a family home than you do buying a fridge-freezer.

If you buy a fridge, it has to meet minimum quality and safety standards and be fit for purpose. If it goes wrong consumers normally have clear options for getting it repaired or replaced.

But renting from a private landlord isn't like that. There aren't clear standards for what's 'good enough', and tenants feel in the dark about how to sort things out when they go wrong, or worried about the consequences of doing so. Official statistics tell us that over a million households live in privately rented properties that are cold, damp, and sometimes dangerous.

New analysis I've released today shows for the first time how much this is costing us. An astonishing £800 million a month in rent is being spent on England's 1.3million sub-standard private rented properties, about a quarter of that paid for by the taxpayer in housing benefit.

When renters and taxpayers are being ripped off paying for unacceptable, unfit and sometimes downright dangerous housing, things have to change.

We know change won't come from the Conservatives, who have consistently defended the status quo, rejecting calls to hold bad landlords to account and stand up for tenants.

In fact, while the number of households renting privately has grown by almost a million since 2010, Conservative Ministers have made it easier for a minority of bad landlords to game the system - refusing to introduce basic standards, and blocking councils from cracking down on rogues.

Most landlords provide decent homes that tenants are happy with, but a minority are making families' lives a misery.

After seven years of failure under the Conservatives, the next Labour government would call time on bad landlords.

We'll introduce clear, enforceable legal minimum standards so that no renter has to suffer problems like unsafe wiring or appliances, problem damp and serious vermin infestations.

And we'll empower tenants to take matters into their own hands with new consumer rights to get landlords to fix problems without having to rely on overstretched council officials.

We'd also give councils the powers they need to tackle the worst offenders by licensing landlords where needed in return for a small fee, which would then fund the vital inspection and enforcement work that is needed.

After seven years of failure the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis. They've turned a blind eye to renters' problems and weakened key protections.

A Labour government would introduce proper consumer rights for renters - with legal minimum standards so that every rented house is fit to be called home.

John Healey is the Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne and shadow housing minister