I’m very happy to sponsor John Healey’s new 10 Minute Rule Bill in Parliament today to tackle the failings in the letting agents market. I’ve spoken before about the critical importance of getting a better deal for tenants and landlords from lettings agents. This is a big issue for local people across Manchester Central. There are large numbers of people living in the private rented sector. There are many shocking cases of bad practice by letting and managing agents in Manchester Central that can only be described as unscrupulous and murky, and that have left many residents significantly out of pocket and with little protection.
New research by Shelter shows that the number of families renting their homes has doubled over the last ten years. Given the importance of housing to family stability and children’s futures it is time for action from Government.
John’s important Bill would for the first time give landlords, tenants and leaseholders a proper choice of affordable, quality letting and managing agents - by increasing competition to root out inefficient and unfair practice, and setting firm standards to stop rip-off fees and rogue agents.
Four million households live in the private rented sector with the majority of these properties let by an agent rather than direct from the landlord. Whilst many lettings and managing agents are reputable there are some that cause a host of problems for tenants and landlords including rip off fees, no safeguards, a lack of no proper accountability for bad practice and no way to check on the reliability or suitability of an agent.
Whilst recent Government moves to give tenants and landlords a right of redress against agents are welcome, this does not go far enough. Over half of lettings agents are already part of a redress scheme but this hasn’t fixed the problem. Bad lettings agents still cause misery for tenants and landlords due to the weak regulatory framework we currently have.
If enacted, the Letting Agents Bill will:
• establish a national mandatory licensing scheme for letting and managing agents, with established standards and redress for landlords, tenants and leaseholders;
• restrict letting and management agent charges to just rent and a deposit, so that tenants and leaseholders aren’t hit by huge upfront fees;
• mandate that all tenants have a written tenancy agreement with their landlord;
• enable local authorities to administer and enforce these new powers to find the right solution for each local area; and
• empower local authorities, either alone or in partnership, to trade as letting and managing agents – encouraging competition, standards and public enterprise.
These changes would shift the balance in favour of consumers and create a more stable, secure lettings market. That’s why I’m proud to sponsor this Bill.