Council Leader Calls On Government to Defend Private Tenants

COUNCIL Leader, John Kent, has called upon the Government to protect tenants in Thurrock from “dodgy” and absentee landlords. The MP was responding to a report by housing charity Shelter which demonstrated the appalling problems faced by private tenants because of rogue landlords. Cllr Kent warned that plans from the Tory-led coalition government risked damaging the standard of private homes and the quality of life in their communities.

Since the election, the Government has announced it will sweep away key regulations introduced by Labour to protect private tenants. These include a national register of landlords set up to allow tenants to make basic checks on their prospective landlords, and enable Thurrock Council to enforce letting rules more easily.

The findings in the report show the continuing problem of rogue landlords, at a time when the Government is rolling back commitments to protect private tenants, many of whom come from vulnerable groups. The report found that:

* Almost 100% of environmental health officers say they have encountered landlords who persistently ignore their responsibilities

* Half of EHOs believe the main reason for letting unsafe properties is to make as much money as possible.

* Over 90% of environmental health officers said they had encountered cases of severe damp, mould, electrical or fire safety hazards in properties they investigated in the last year.

* Over 60% of environmental health officers said that more than half of their cases involved people from vulnerable groups.

There are more than four thousand private tenants in Thurrock, all of whom could be affected if regulations on their landlords are relaxed.

The government also plans to remove laws which allowed councils to prevent the spread of Homes in Multiple Occupation and stop the damaging effects of absentee landlords. HMOs in high concentration can change the balance and nature of local communities when poorly managed. Legislation brought in by Labour gave councils the power to prevent the creation of new HMOs under planning laws and reign in the problems associated with absentee landlords.

Cllr Kent said:

“There are thousands of private tenants in Thurrock, all of whom stand to lose out from changes to landlord regulations. At the same time whole areas of our borough could be harmed if Thurrock Council isn’t able to restrain the spread of HMOs.

“Shelter’s research confirms that private tenants are suffering under dodgy and absentee landlords at a time when the Government, putting landlords’ interests over tenants’, is rolling back key protective regulations”

Rt Hon John Healey MP, Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning, said:

“The Government is letting local residents down by removing controls on bad landlords; they make tenants’ lives a misery and their neglect can cause widespread grief for neighbours too.

Cllr Kent is right to campaign for greater power to protect local residents in Thurrock.

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter said:

“It is simply not acceptable that people are handing over their hard earned cash to live in houses that are run-down, squalid and in some cases even dangerous. Our investigation shows just how ruthless a minority of rogue landlords can be. We know there are people operating in cities up and down the county and it’s clear that this is a national problem that urgently needs a national solution.”

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