The Minister of State for Housing and Planning is right to say that there are too many "rogue landlords that exploit vulnerable people and force tenants to live in overcrowded and squalid accommodation", but the new £5m fund to help councils is derisory (Cash boost to crack down on rogue landlords,22/01/16). With rents rising much faster than inflation, and many tenants paying over half of their disposable income on rent to greedy landlords, or having to rely on housing benefit, it is clear government intervention is needed; taxpayers cannot be expected to provide, as they did last year, £9.2bn to private landlords in housing benefit, especially when so many rented properties do not meet the basic standards of health, safety and habitation.
All rented accommodation needs to be inspected, and then graded into bands according to location, size and condition, with the level of rent to be charged set by the government for each band. For many tenants, this would mean a big reduction in rent. Landlords will not walk away, as opponents on the right will inevitably suggest, as easy profits will still be available, but will, instead, be forced to improve the quality of their properties. Students would be included, too, so their halls of residence, as well as the private houses and flats they rent, would be inspected. Furthermore, all tenants would then have more money to spend, thereby benefiting the economy as a whole.
With so much expertise in this area at Westminster, drafting suitable legislation should prove easy! The number of MPs earning extra income by renting out properties rose by a third in the last parliament, increasing to 153, and of course, including Cameron, Osborne, and the present Minister for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis!