Eve Miller, Nuneaton Socialist Party
The Tories’ Renters (Reform) Bill is supposed to allow tenants to appeal above-market rent increases; allow tenants the right to request a pet in their property without unreasonable refusal; require landlords to join a new ombudsman body and database; and abolish section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions and fixed-term tenancies.
Landlords who do not sign up to the new database to ensure that their properties meet requirements have been told they will be breaking the law, and subject to enforcement action by local authorities.
But the Local Government Association has admitted that councils are hard-pressed to enforce the new tenant rights, due to lack of staff and funding. Environmental health officers, in particular, have huge vacancy gaps.
56% of local authorities report that they have vacancies in this area unfilled for over six months. 80% of local authorities use agency staff to cover environmental health services.
The number of tenancy relations officers has also been declining from years of austerity cuts by Tory and Labour councils. Workers struggle to keep up with the workload of investigations into ensuring safety and compliance in privately rented properties.
Who will protect tenants?
All this poses the question – how will councils police the new bill if they do not have the funding to do so? It’s nothing but words. Without properly funded investigative bodies, dodgy landlords won’t be forced to comply with the new rules.
And new tenant rights are thinly veiled. On one hand, the Tories claim there is certain protection against discrimination and short-hold tenancies. Yet, on the other, landlords’ power to evict tenants is also strengthened.
This is a drop in the ocean of housing issues. These problems will not be solved without real socialist policies.
We need rental capping to prevent mass landlords profiteering from us. And the Socialist Party puts forward a programme to build masses of genuinely affordable council homes. As well, we need to ensure proper funding of environmental, health and tenancy relations bodies in local authorities to help stop tenants being ripped off, taken advantage of, or subjected to sub-standard living conditions.
We must take back control of our broken housing system – nationalising the big housebuilders, banks and the land. If the working class took full democratic control of housing in elected bodies, it would allow us to properly plan and resolve the current housing crisis.