Ministers urged to address ‘extortionate rent hikes’ amid cost-of-living crisis

Communities minister Eddie Hughes described rent controls as ‘simply not conservative’.

16 June 2022

Ministers have faced questions about why plans to reform the private rented sector did not do more to address rising rents amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The Government published a White Paper on Thursday setting out its plans to make the rented sector fairer.

Under the plans, tenants will have stronger powers to challenge poor practice and unjustified rent increases, and they could also be saved the expense of having to move as often from one rented home to another.

It will also be made illegal for landlords or agents to place blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.

But in the Commons, shadow communities minister Matthew Pennycook said: “In none of the coverage this morning or in the White Paper itself is there any sign of meaningful proposals to address the problem of unreasonable rent rises.

“A one-year rent increase limit, the removal of rent review clauses, and vague assurances about giving tenants the confidence to challenge unjustified increases at tribunal is simply not good enough.”

The Labour MP added: “According to Right Move, private rents are rising at record rates with average asking rents outside London rising last year by over 10% for the first time.

“With the scrapping of section 21, the risk of economic evictions via rent hikes is going to increase markedly.

“Can the minister tell us why the Government are unwilling to act to properly protect private tenants from extortionate rent hikes?”

Communities minister Eddie Hughes
Communities minister Eddie Hughes (UK Parliament/PA)

Communities minister Eddie Hughes said the Government was “not committed to the idea of rent control”, telling MPs: “I think one of the things that we should appreciate with regard to the cost of living, if somebody is forced to move tenancy perhaps because of a no-fault section 21 eviction, on average that costs approximately £1,400.

“So if we can limit the number of times people move, we are going to be making sure they don’t experience those unfortunate and unnecessary costs.”

He added: “But as a Government we are clearly not committed to the idea of rent control.

“We have seen that experiment carried out recently in some places in Europe and all it does is stops investment in properties, that is the last thing we want to do.”

Labour’s Rachael Maskell (York Central) also asked the minister to consider introducing controls as rising rents are “forcing people out” of her constituency.

The minister said rent controls were “simply not a conservative policy”, but added: “I think there are some things that are going to be helpful to her constituents, such as abolishing rent review clauses and the idea that abolishing section 21 means people shouldn’t have to move property so frequently and will save money that way.”

The Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper marks a generational shift, according to the Government, which will redress the balance between landlords and the 4.4 million privately renting households across England.

The decent homes living standard will be extended to the private sector, meaning homes must be free from serious health and safety hazards, and landlords must keep homes in a good state of repair so renters have clean, appropriate and usable facilities.

“No fault” section 21 evictions that allow landlords to terminate tenancies without giving any reason will be outlawed.

Measures will also help responsible landlords to gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants.

A new property portal will help landlords to understand, and comply with, their responsibilities as well as giving councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue operators.

The measures will form part of the Renters Reform Bill, as announced in the Queen’s Speech, to be introduced in this parliamentary session.

Michael Gove
Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove said the plans will improve the rights and conditions for millions of renters (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Launching the White Paper, Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Michael Gove said: “For too long many private renters have been at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who fail to repair homes and let families live in damp, unsafe and cold properties, with the threat of unfair ‘no fault’ evictions orders hanging over them.

“Our new deal for renters will help to end this injustice by improving the rights and conditions for millions of renters as we level up across the country and deliver on the people’s priorities.”

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