Today was set to be a landmark day for private renters in this country. The Tenancies (Reform) Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons, to kick start a process many hoped would lead to legislation to end retaliatory evictions. That didn’t happen. It didn’t happen primarily because Tory MPs Christopher Chope and Philip Davies filibustered so the bill could not be passed, despite having cross-party support.
A sad day for democracy. A far sadder day for the 9 million of us who rent our homes with little protection in existing law.
This bill had been drafted to try to prevent landlords from evicting tenants who complain about poor conditions in their homes. Although the vast majority of landlords fulfil their duty of care to tenants and repair their properties if there are reported problems, there is a small handful of rogue landlords out there who would rather evict a tenant if they complain about poor conditions than carry out much needed repairs.
Statistics from the Citizens Advice Bureau shows that between July and September this year, the organisation saw a 14 per cent rise in repairs and maintenance issues and a 20 per cent rise in evictions (for tenants who were not in arrears). How much longer can we go on like this? How much longer can we put the housing needs of so many of our citizens at the end our collective to-do list?
Everyone needs a safe home and to live in healthy and decent conditions. It is a landlord’s responsibility to make sure their tenant’s home meets certain standards. Tenants pay rent, after all, so why shouldn’t they feel confident that they can report repair problems to their landlord without fear of eviction?
The private rental sector in this country is currently almost completely inadequate at providing a safe and secure roof over renters’ heads. In Europe tenants have much better protection and security. Similarly, America, New Zealand and Australia have had laws protecting renters from retaliatory eviction for almost 50 years.
Bob Blackman MP argued today that good landlords had nothing to fear from this legislation. I couldn’t agree more. The bill has exemptions for cases where the tenant is in breach of contract or where the house is on the market. This was not a piece of legislation that was going to become an unfair bureaucratic nightmare for landlords, it was simply going to provide a degree of security for tenants that they currently don’t have.
When an immoral, irresponsible minority of rogue landlords are able to evict tenants whenever they feel like it they not only cause misery in the lives of those they unfairly evict - they also distort the market, they create a climate of mistrust and they lead to widespread insecurity throughout whole communities.
Only 60 of our MPs showed up today to debate this. Where were the rest of them?
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we still, collectively, have an opportunity to set something in stone that will protect tenants for generations to come. If you share my anger at this missed opportunity, write to your MP and get them to bring this bill back to life. We all deserve so much better than this.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies