Better Deal for Renters

Speech prepared to propose the Better Deal for Renters motion at the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ 2015 Autumn Conference.

Conference,

In his first conference speech as leader, Tim Farron said –

“We have had enough empty rhetoric on housing. We need action now.”

The Private Rented Sector must form a central part of our response to this issue. It is an important part of our housing market, but it’s also incredibly exploitative, where the number of tenants are increasing.

We are talking about a sector in which low wage earners are over-represented , where costs are inflated, where standards are poorer, where regulation and oversight is limited, and it’s assumed as a rite of passage to be charged fees for all sorts of things to line the pockets of businesses.

We need to re-address the power imbalance between businesses and tenants, and empower tenants to demand better protection and a better standard of living.

Report after report and campaign group manifesto after another – the evidence is overwhelming in its call for action to be taken. Tenants up and down the country are calling for real action to improve their lot, not empty rhetoric.

We’re all aware of the impact that poor housing has on health outcomes, and the impact of higher debt on people’s mental health – these do not create conditions for people to succeed.

We can’t leave it to market forces to change the situation that people find themselves in right now.

Despite efforts to address these failings, tenants are still being let down, and we can’t wait for governments to finally invest in house building to give people a real chance at decent, affordable housing.

New evidence uncovered by Citizen’s Advice reveals tenants are frequently ripped-off by fees hidden by letting agents – to the tune of £337 on average.

There is no evidence to suggest that banning these fees  would result in increased costs to tenants – following a ban on fees in Scotland in 2012 landlords in Scotland were no more likely to have increased rents than landlords elsewhere in the UK.

Let’s say that the Welsh Lib Dems are against this and end arbitrary fees for profit.

Countries across Europe have adopted second generation rent controls, and the housing charity Shelter have advocated for a Stable Rental Contract.

Our motion calls for us to support that Contact which would address the needs of landlords and tenants by introducing greater protection for tenants from eviction, only allowing rents to rise by inflation, contain break clauses so renters aren’t locked into contract and allow landlords to sell their properties if their circumstances change.

The evidence is extensive and demonstrates that things aren’t improving for tenants in the way that they should be or at the pace that they need to be.

We shouldn’t wait and hope that things get better through encouragement – it’s a failing market, open to exploitation, and needs intervention.

Let’s give renters some hope so please support our motion.

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