After the euphoria of Housing Day 2014 earlier this month those involved in promoting housing be it in the private, public or 3rd sector have been brought back down to Earth with a rather large bump. For whilst we celebrated (and rightly so) all that we do as a sector, the acts of Messrs Philip Davies and Christopher Chope on Fri 28th November have again served to highlight how much more work is needed to be done. Despite Shelter, Crisis, Generation Rent and Citizens Advice (to name but a few) in support, alongside cross-bench backing in Parliament, the Tenancy Reform Bill is dead as it stands.
That Davies and Chope managed to successfully filibuster the Tenancy Reform Bill (jargon for talking out your arse for a long time) is largely due to the nature of the Bill, a Private Members one. Such Bills are limited by procedures about when and how long they can be heard in Parliament. Meaning they are a target for blocking tactics such as filibustering. That this wasn’t part of the Coalition Government’s legislative programme in the first place again shows how far down the pecking order housing policy, of any kind, is for this Government. And whilst I applaud Sarah Teather for attempting to get it through, she shouldn’t have had to. This should have been part of the Government’s general programme of legislation, it should be on its way to being law.
I am 21 (plus 5years) old, I have lived in 5 different houses in the last 3 years. Including my time at Uni I have lived in 9 places in the last 7 years. In that time I have lived in University Halls, in the properties of several buy-to-let landlords, dealt with muppets who simply rented out the house of a dead relative and even an IMR property. I have had to deal with amateurs who didn’t know their legal responsibilities in terms of property maintenance or deposits and those parasitic beings know as lettings agents aplenty. As you can probably guess my experience of the private rented market is largely negative. I have had one or two decent, honest landlords, the rest weren’t exactly bad, just incompetent, clumsy and slow to react to repairs issues.
By and large I am lucky, many others are not. In their piece supporting the Tenancy Reform Bill, Shelter noted that over 200,000 renters were evicted or served no fault notices in 12 month period. That is 200,000 renters who lost their tenancy simply because they reported a repair and/or general issue with their property. 1 in 12 renters have stated they have avoided reporting a repair because they fear retaliatory action. I have had friends in the past ‘put up’ with crappy living conditions because it was all they could afford. But this shouldn’t be the case. A home is the keystone on which you balance the rest of life’s crap. If the place where you rest your head is unstable the rest of your life will also be. Health, mental and physical, is strongly linked to a decent, secure home. Revenge evictions, and frankly poor landlords in general, put that at risk.
I don’t know what pisses me off more, the actions of Philip Davies and Christopher Chope, or their reasons behind it. In reality it doesn’t matter because it just means another curve ball for me and my peers to deal with. Only one of my friends owns the property they live in. Everyone else either lives in privately rented accommodation or with their parents. None are particularly in a position to buy or qualify for social housing and in my neck of the woods there is not a lot of IMR stock. So it is live with mum and dad or deal with the lottery of renting in the private sector.
Don’t get me wrong this Bill wouldn’t have been a world changer, the reality is that despite being an issue for a significant minoirty revenge evictions is a relatively contained, if growing, problem. But it would have meant there would be fall back if your landlord attempts to screw you over when you report a legitimate repair. The Bill accounted for lousy tenants and good landlords would have had little (if anything) to fear. It would not have become some bureaucratic nightmare. It did not look to introduce full blooded regulation to the private sector, it did not seek to restrict the private sector. But hey, Phil and Chris know better…
I will leave you with a point made by Hannah Williams in the Independent. Other countries have had this sort of legislation for 50 years. Even the USA, that bastion of small Government does. My addition to this would be why the hell have not we?