Recently at my surgery I met a distressed young woman who came to see me with her mother. Repairs are outstanding on their rented property. The landlord is refusing to sort them out while at the same time putting pressure on them to leave their flat. She didn't know where to go or what to do.
This is a familiar story and it is no exaggeration to say that we have a national emergency in housing. There are vast numbers of people living in fear and uncertainty and in 2016 that is simply unacceptable.
We clearly have a rental sector which is broken. Many people are spending over half their disposable income on rent and yet a third of homes fail to meet the government's decent homes standard, with over 60% of renters having experienced either damp, mould, leaking roofs or windows, electrical hazards, animal infestation or gas leaks, according to a recent survey commissioned by Shelter.
On top of that there are barriers which stop renters getting on with their lives and moving into the housing they want for them and their families. Soaring house prices mean that a two-bedroom house in London is now out of reach from more than 80% of people and high deposit requirements and lettings fees push many people into debt.
The rental system is simply not fit for purpose and needs radical reform. This week I presented to parliament my Landlords and Tenants (Reform) Bill, based on the measures put forward by Caroline Pidgeon's team, giving a fairer deal for private renters. These include scrapping lettings fees for tenants, mandatory registration of landlords and limiting the size of deposits.
As Liberal Democrats we need to step up our call for renting reform. We need to shut down the Rachmans of this world and shift the power balance towards renters. There is no silver bullet that will solve London's housing problems, because the fundamental challenge is a lack of supply, which takes time to fix. But there are things that can be done to make renting cheaper, safer and more secure and they must be done now.
Tom Brake is the Lib Dem MP for Carshalton & Wallington