If there wasn’t enough concern already about MPs’ property interests, there should be now. Yesterday, members with interests in property closed ranks by rejecting a motion to improve conditions for tenants.
The motion concerning the private rental sector was submitted by Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East.
It asked members to ban letting agent fees, demand longer standard tenancies, and prevent landlords from making excessive rent rise during tenancies.
This House recognises the private rented sector’s growing role in meeting housing need; notes that there are nine million people, including more than one million families with more than two million children, now renting privately; notes with concern the lack of stability and certainty that the sector provides to those who rent privately; further notes the increasing cost of renting and the unreasonable letting agent fees levied on tenants; calls on the Government to bring forward legislative proposals to reform the sector by banning letting agent fees being charged to tenants and making three year tenancies the standard for those who rent their homes in the private sector; and further calls on the Government to act on unpredictable rent rises by prohibiting excessive rent rises during longer-term tenancies.
The vote was rejected by 276 votes to 226. As you might expect, the devil – or the conflict of interest – is in the detail.
Last week, I mentioned that there were 219 MPs with a listed interest in property (past or present). Details of yesterday’s vote show that over half of these turned up to vote against the measures.
|Total MPs (650)||Voted For (226)||Voted Against (276)|
|Members with listed property interests||219||51||104|
|Members who declare rental income||157||33||83|
|Members who are buy-to-let landlords in London||86||20||43|
Among the ‘Noes’ were Fiona Bruce (Congleton), who receives income from eight properties; David Nuttall (Bury North), who receives rent from five properties; and Messrs Davies, (Montgomeryshire), Whittaker (Calder Valley), and Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire), all of whom receive income from four properties.
Conversely, only 1 in 5 MPs who receive rental income from property voted in favour of the motion. Of the 86 who rake in huge London rents, only 20 voted for the Labour-backed measures, compared to 43 who voted against them.
Who Said No?
- Fiona Bruce, MP for Congelton – receives rental income from three residential properties and five commercial properties.
- David Nuttall, MP for Bury North – receives rental income from four commercial premises and one residential property in Sheffield.
- Glyn Davies, MP for Montgomeryshire – receives rental income from three estates in Montgomeryshire and a flat in Cardiff Bay.
- Craig Whittaker, MP for Calder Valley – receives rental income from four houses in Brighouse and Bradford.
- Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire – receives rental income from four half-share ownerships in Brecon and Devon.
Members on all sides recognised the difficulties posed by substandard landlords and letting agents, and by the lack of affordable housing.
However, campaigning against the motion, MP Stephen Williams said that rents had increased more slowly than inflation during the current Parliament, at around 1% per year. This was contested by several members, whose constituents are experiencing a very different experience.
Mr Williams added that rent controls would distort the market, leading to fewer properties and higher rents. He said that under current proposals, agents would be required to register with a new ombudsman scheme and there would be efforts to make fees more transparent, which should help to eradicate some of the disreputable practices carried out by rogue landlords and letting agents.
Convinced? Given the clear conflict of interests at work, I’m not sure I am either.