Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Housing Minister Grant Shapps response to my call for an urgent debate on private landlords

I raised the issue of the Channel 4's Dispatches programme, 'Landlords from Hell'. The ministers view is quite clearly one of ignorance to the problems within the private rented sector in particular in low demand areas. His comments in the Dispatches programme were met with derision on Twitter during the programme.

The minster needs to wake up the facts. Grant Shapps argues that only 1 person in 2009-10 was evicted due to retaliatory eviction but Shelters survey of Environmental Health Officers revealed that;
  • almost 1 million Britons have been the victim of a scam involving a private tenancy or landlord in the last three years 
  • 9 out of 10 environmental health officers working with tenants have encountered landlords who are harassing or illegally evicting them
One has to ask who is submitting to evidence to the minister?

The minster also argues the sector needs to grow yet the PRS does not build homes so what impact assessment has the minister undertook to access reductions in other housing markets and the cost to government through housing benefit paid through the Local Housing Allowance?

Shelter argue;
"Over the past 10 years, the private rented sector has been the fastest growing type of housing in the UK and is likely to continue to expand, as waiting lists for social housing rise and more people are priced out of home ownership."
The media have been quick to pick up on the return of Rackmanism to the UK. Whilst the minster argues that;
"the private rented sector has grown steadily and responded flexibly to changes in the wider housing market ... and the current framework strikes the right balance "
    Conversely Shelter's survey of Environmental Health Officers found;
    • 78% had dealt with landlords who persistently refuse to maintain their property in a safe condition.
    • More than 90% had encountered cases of severe damp, mould, electrical or fire safety hazard in properties they investigated in the last year. 
    The minister in his letter seems keen to point out that Local Authorities have the powers to deal with the worst conditions. They may be true but it is only true up to point. Undesirable houses, often grotesquely unfit houses often pass the HHSRS and it is no gatekeeper of decent home.

    Further swinging cuts, particularly to Labour areas dependent on the government formula grant are in less of a position to undertake preventative work. It is more likely the case they are overstretched as merely a responsive authority.
      Mr Shapps seems keen to pass the buck to anywhere but his friends, the landlords. In the last 3 years according to HMRC sources some £61m in tax has been recovered private landlords in upaid tax.

      As John Snow summised in Landlords form Hell, in 40 years of reporting housing matters, he has never seen conditions like that of today's rental market.
      Channel 4 Landlords from Hell
      In this undercover investigation, Jon Snow reports on the return of the slum landlord in 21st-century Britain. At a time when more people than ever are having to rent privately, unable to get on the property ladder, Dispatches reveals the shocking conditions in which tenants are forced to live.
      Dispatches sends an undercover reporter to work for a rogue property empire in the north of England. He reveals a world of forced evictions, slum properties in dangerous condition, and routine bullying of tenants. Jon confronts the man raking in millions while his tenants suffer.
      Dispatches also exposes an extraordinary new phenomenon: thousands of people living in illegal sheds, transforming parts of London into slums. A second undercover reporter lives in a squalid, illegal shed in London, paying £40 a week rent to another rogue landlord.
      Dispatches lifts the lid on a world where unscrupulous landlords are exploiting the most vulnerable people in society and getting away with it.
      Follow the discussion on Twitter: #LandlordsFromHell
      Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour)
      May we have an urgent statement from the Housing Minister on the crisis of rogue landlords in the private rented sector, following a series of television exposés, including “Dispatches” on Channel 4 on Monday night, which showed one landlord, who was operating as a charity, boasting that he could break the law and that he would sort his tenants out with a baseball bat?

      Tens of thousands of people are trapped with poor or rogue landlords in the private rented sector. Following the programme, the Housing Minister was bombarded on Twitter, to which he replied.

      May we have an urgent statement from the Minister about his comments?