Labour says there would be a ‘consumer rights revolution’ for the private rental sector if the party won the June 8 General Election - but has not made any comment on a ban on letting agents’ fees.
The party’s housing spokesman, John Healey, says Labour’s new minimum standards will empower renters to “call time on bad landlords” letting out dangerous or sub-standard homes; the party claims it will also champion those it describes as being “let down by Conservative Ministers who have weakened key legislation” in the private rental sector.
Labour claims tenants in England are spending £800m every month - equivalent to £9.6 billion a year - on homes which the government classes as ‘non-decent’.
Around a quarter of this is paid by housing benefit.
The party says that at present there are effectively no minimum standard for private renters and tenants are reliant on over-stretched council environmental health teams to weed out dangerous homes rather than being able to take matters into their own hands.
Labour suggests that if it formed the next government it would consult with landlords and relevant professionals on new legal minimum standards to ensure properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ on specified criteria, for example safe wiring and appliances, “freedom from serious damp and vermin infestation”, appropriate water and sewage facilities, appropriate facilities for the preparation and cooking of food, general good repair.
Healey has also pledged new powers for councils to license landlords and tough fines for those who flout the rules.
“Our homes are at the centre of our lives but at the moment renters too often don’t have basic consumer rights that we take for granted in other areas. In practice you have fewer rights renting a family home than you do buying a fridge-freezer. As a result, too many are forced to put up with unacceptable, unfit and downright dangerous housing” he says.
“The number of families renting from a private landlord has soared since 2010 but decisions made by Conservative ministers have made it easier for a minority of bad landlords to game the system. Most landlords provide decent homes that tenants are happy with, but these rogue landlords are ripping off both renters and the taxpayer by making billions from rent and housing benefit letting out sub-standard homes.
“After seven years of failure the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis. The next Labour government would call time on bad landlords. We’d introduce proper minimum standards to put renters back in control, and give councils the powers they need to tackle the worst offenders.”
There was no comment on letting agents’ fees levied on tenants which, in England, are set to be banned by the Conservatives under proposals put forward by Chancellor Phillip Hammond.
This may yet appear in party manifestos which are expected to be published in around 10 days’ time.