Success on sanctions – now for rent controls!

Friday 29-01-2016 - 10:49

We’ve won in Parliament on penalties for rogue landlords – improving the protection for hundreds of thousands of students who rent.

By Shelly Asquith, Vice President Welfare

The cost and condition of housing is one of the biggest issues facing students, and bad landlords cannot be let off lightly. Today I want to share with you a success we’ve had nationally – while acknowledging there’s a lot more yet to do.

The Housing and Planning Bill*, currently making its way through Parliament, contains changes to the private rented sector, including on protections for tenants against rogue landlords.

When the Bill was first presented, the penalty for landlords that breached their banning orders was only £5,000. When we consider the extortionate rents students’ pay each month, and the size of landlord’s profits; this figure is a mere drop in the ocean.

So we made the case for tougher sanctions. In our consultation response to the Bill we outlined our policy position, referencing our own research on students’ experiences of housing, as well as asking MPs to raise our concerns. And we won!

The government has now made two changes: firstly, breaching a banning order will be considered a criminal offense; secondly, the fine is increased to £30,000.

I want to make it very clear though, with this piece of legislation, the good does not outweigh the bad. It is full of measures that look set to destroy access to housing for people on low incomes, particularly impacting our existing social housing stock. Other suggestions that we and others made were plainly ignored – but we cannot allow Parliamentary process to stall us.

We cannot tinker at the edges of a housing crisis – we must tackle it head on and collectively. Our policy is for tougher regulations - on conditions as well as rents.

I am determined to keep up the fight for fairer housing, and will continue to lobby for changes to the Bill as it goes through the House of Lords. I will also be joining forces with community campaigns – marching this Saturday alongside students, trade unions and council housing activists calling for an alternative housing system – affordable, accountable, controlled.

*The Bill currently applies to England only.


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