MP Liz Kendall: Rental sector needs tougher rules
On Wednesday, I was due to welcome Prince Edward to Fosse Neighbourhood Centre, in my constituency. The Prince was coming to visit the Square Mile project, a brilliant initiative where students and staff from De Montfort University work with residents on a range of issues, such as raising the aspirations of primary school children and improving people's IT skills.
Unfortunately, Prince Edward had to postpone his trip due to the bad weather.
However, this change of plan did give me the chance to take part in a House of Commons debate on how to ensure the private rented sector provides decent, affordable homes.
This is an increasingly important issue. More than one in five households in Leicester are in the private rented sector, up from one in 10 a decade ago.
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We tend to think people who rent privately are young adults.
However, lots more families with children now live in private rented accommodation.
This is sometimes through choice, but often because many people simply can't afford to get on the housing ladder.
Yet renting privately is becoming increasingly expensive.
I'm particularly worried about the huge fees charged by many letting agencies.
Last year, I conducted a mystery shopper survey of these fees in my constituency.
One agency charged a £125 application fee, a £150 tenancy fee and an additional £100 unspecified fee – on top of a month's rent deposit and a month's rent in advance.
I think letting and management agents should be required to publish their fees up front to make them clearer and more transparent, so consumers and landlords can make comparisons and shop around for the best deal.
There are also real problems with the quality of many private rented homes.
Nationally, a third don't meet decent standards – far higher than for any other home type.
Cold and damp housing is bad for people's health and costs more in higher heating bills.
Overcrowded homes can affect how well children do at school, because it is tough doing homework if your family is living on top of one another.
There is also a dangerous minority of rogue landlords who rent out unsafe properties.
A simple national register of landlords could help ensure tenants and good landlords are protected.
Most landlords do the right thing and this would have a minimal impact on them, while helping the council keep track.
The city council should also have tougher powers to root out and strike off rogue landlords who break the rules. Longer tenancies for those that want them could also make a real difference.
Families would be able to better plan where to send their children to school and communities could benefit if neighbours get to know each other better because they're not always having to move.
If you've had problems with unscrupulous letting agencies, rogue landlords or bad tenants, please get in touch.
I want to make sure any changes work for good tenants and landlords alike.